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Your Guide to Dry AMD

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Everything to Know About Macular Degeneration

Medically Reviewed By Vicente Diaz, MD, MBA

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that damages central vision. While severe cases may lead to blindness, treatment can slow its progress and protect your vision. Some people may refer to AMD as “macular degeneration.”

AMD is common and is caused by age-related eye changes. However, AMD is not a typical part of aging and requires treatment.

Talk with an eye doctor if you have questions about AMD or eye health.

This article discusses the symptoms, causes, treatment, and outlook of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Key facts about macular degeneration

  • AMD is when aging-related changes damage the eye’s macula.
  • Researchers are still investigating causes, but older age, other health conditions, and genetics may increase the risk.
  • AMD does not usually cause symptoms in the early stages. It may eventually lead to blurry vision, difficulty seeing in low lighting, and visual distortions.
  • Treatment options depend on the type and stage of AMD but can help protect your vision.

What is macular degeneration?

An older adult uses eyeglasses and a magnifying lens while sewing.
Lucy Lambriex/Getty Images

AMD develops when age-related eye changes damage Trusted Source National Eye Institute Governmental authority Go to source the macula. The macula is a part of the eye’s retina, helping to produce clear central vision. Macular degeneration is a progressive condition, meaning it can get worse with time.

There are two main types of AMD: dry and wet.

Dry AMD

Dry AMD is the more common type. It typically develops gradually over several years as the macula becomes thinner with age.

There are three main stages of dry AMD:

  • early
  • intermediate
  • late

Sometimes, dry AMD may develop into wet AMD. This can happen at any stage of the condition.

At the late stage of dry AMD, you may experience Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source geographic atrophy. Geographic atrophy causes lesions to develop in the retina, possibly causing permanent vision loss.

Learn more about geographic atrophy causes, symptoms, and treatment.

Wet AMD

Wet AMD is always considered late AMD, as it can lead to vision loss and eye damage more quickly.

With wet AMD, atypical, fragile blood vessels grow in the eye. These blood vessels may leak blood and fluids, and lead to swelling, damaging the eye.

Read more about wet vs. dry AMD.

What are the symptoms of macular degeneration?

Early AMD does not usually Trusted Source National Eye Institute Governmental authority Go to source cause noticeable symptoms. Because AMD is a progressive condition, you may start to experience symptoms as eye damage worsens. Symptoms may start mildly and then get more severe with time.

If you do experience symptoms, they may include:

  • blurriness in the center of the visual field, such as when looking straight ahead
  • difficulty seeing in low lighting
  • seeing colors as washed out or less vivid
  • seeing straight lines as distorted, wavy, or dark
  • having objects appear smaller than usual
  • generally worsening vision, which may lead to difficulty driving, reading, or recognizing faces

Seeing distortions in straight lines is a sign of late AMD. You can check for visual distortions in straight lines at home with an Amsler grid test.

Contact an eye doctor as soon as possible for any AMD symptoms.

What are the causes and risk factors of macular degeneration?

Aging causes Trusted Source National Eye Institute Governmental authority Go to source AMD. However, researchers are trying to understand what causes AMD to start in the first place and why some people experience AMD while others do not.

Factors that may increase the risk of developing AMD include:

  • being age 55 or older
  • being white
  • having a family history of AMD
  • having high blood pressure or heart disease
  • smoking
  • being overweight
  • eating a diet high in saturated fats, in foods such as meat, dairy, and baked goods

How is macular degeneration diagnosed?

The main tests for macular degeneration include:

  • Comprehensive dilated eye exam: The eyes are dilated with eye drops, allowing a doctor to examine the eye.
  • Amsler grid test: You look at a grid for signs of distorted vision.
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT): This is an imaging scan of the eye.
  • Fluorescein angiography: Dye is injected into a vein in the arm, and a doctor watches how the dye travels through the eye’s blood vessels.

Eye doctors may also ask about your symptoms, medical history, and family medical history.

How is macular degeneration treated?

Treatment options for AMD vary depending on its type and stage.

Currently, there are no medical treatments for early AMD and late dry AMD without geographic atrophy. Instead, lifestyle approaches can help protect eye health and improve quality of life. These include:

  • getting regular physical activity
  • not smoking
  • using vision aids, such as magnifying devices and text-to-speech technology
  • asking your doctor about psychotherapy and occupational therapy to help you adjust to vision loss or other complications
  • eating a balanced diet as recommended by your doctor or a registered dietitian, which may include prioritizing:
    • dark, leafy green vegetables, such as kale
    • yellow fruits and vegetables
    • oily fish
    • whole grains
    • lean proteins

Learn more about the best and worst foods for macular degeneration.

The following treatment options can help if you have intermediate or late AMD.

AREDS-2 supplements

AREDS-2 supplements may help prevent Trusted Source JAMA Peer reviewed journal Go to source intermediate AMD from developing into late AMD. This is according to the 2013 Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2. Also, if you already have late AMD in one eye, AREDS-2 supplements may help slow AMD progression in the other eye.

AREDS-2 supplements contain high levels of certain nutrients, including:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin E
  • beta carotene
  • lutein
  • zeaxanthin
  • copper
  • zinc

You can buy AREDS-2 supplements over the counter. Talk with a doctor or pharmacist for their product recommendations.

Individual supplements and regular vitamin products cannot provide Trusted Source National Eye Institute Governmental authority Go to source the right mix of nutrients or offer the same effects.

Geographic atrophy treatment

If you develop geographic atrophy as a result of wet or dry AMD, doctors may prescribe pegcetacoplan (Syfovre) or avacincaptad pegol (Izervay) injections. These medications may help slow geographic atrophy progression and reduce lesions. They are given via monthly or twice-monthly injections.

Read more about pegcetacoplan and avacincaptad pegol.

Anti-VEGF medications

Anti-VEGF medication injections may help stop Trusted Source National Eye Institute Governmental authority Go to source vision loss from wet AMD.

Your doctor will numb the eye with a local anesthetic and give the anti-VEGF injection with a small needle. You may need injections monthly or more often, depending on the stage of your condition.

Anti-VEGF medications include:

  • aflibercept (Eylea)
  • brolucizumab (Beovu)
  • ranibizumab (Lucentis)

Photodynamic therapy

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) can also help treat wet AMD. Doctors sometimes use PDT alongside anti-VEGF medications.

PDT is a type of laser therapy that breaks down the atypical blood vessels that cause bleeding and swelling.

You may need more than one PDT treatment for it to be effective.

What are the complications of macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration can lead to complications, such as Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source :

  • geographic atrophy
  • complications from treatment, including infection or bleeding from injections
  • retinal detachment
  • permanent vision loss and legal blindness

Getting regular eye exams and following your doctor’s treatment recommendations may help reduce the risk of complications.

What is the outlook for macular degeneration?

Currently, there is no cure for AMD. It is a progressive condition, meaning it may worsen over time. In some cases, AMD eventually causes permanent vision loss.

However, treatment can help slow and prevent Trusted Source National Eye Institute Governmental authority Go to source AMD progression and protect your vision. Lifestyle approaches can help you manage low vision and improve your quality of life.

Talk with your medical team for personalized advice about AMD outlook and support.

Can macular degeneration be prevented?

More research is necessary to know whether AMD can be prevented.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source suggests that these approaches may reduce the risk of developing AMD or lower the chance of vision loss:

  • not smoking
  • managing conditions such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • eating a balanced diet, including leafy green vegetables
  • informing your doctor of your family medical history, including eye conditions
  • getting regular comprehensive eye exams

Getting regular eye exams is key to protecting your vision. Many eye conditions do not cause noticeable symptoms until they are severe. Sometimes only an eye doctor can spot a condition before it causes damage.

Summary

AMD is a progressive eye condition in which aging causes damage to the macula. AMD can lead to permanent vision loss in severe cases.

However, treatment can slow AMD progression, protect vision, and improve quality of life.

Because early AMD often does not cause symptoms, regular eye checkups are essential for protecting your vision.

Talk with an eye doctor about regular eye checkups or questions about AMD.

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Medical Reviewer: Vicente Diaz, MD, MBA
Last Review Date: 2024 Mar 7
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