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Your Guide to Dry AMD

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Understanding Wet Vs. Dry Macular Degeneration

Medically Reviewed By Grace Zhang, MD

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition in which the macula becomes damaged. It can be categorized into dry and wet types. Understanding these conditions can help you recognize early warning signs and alert your doctor for proper treatment. This article explains the difference between wet and dry macular degeneration. It looks at causes, symptoms, treatments, and outlook for both conditions.

What causes dry and wet macular degeneration?

A woman undergoing an eye exam
Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

Both dry and wet AMD occur due to changes in the eye that affect the macula. However, the factors that cause these changes differ between the two conditions.

Dry AMD causes

Dry AMD affects the macula itself. The macula is located in the center of the retina, the thin layer of cells that converts light into electrical signals. These signals are sent to your brain, which interprets them as objects you see.

The macula allows you to see fine details, such as faces or words. With dry AMD, the macula becomes thinner and clumps of a protein called drusen develop. This causes blurred or reduced vision in the center of your visual field.

Wet AMD causes

In some cases, dry AMD can progress Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source to wet AMD. Wet AMD also causes central vision loss and blurred vision, but is due to different factors.

In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina. They then leak substances such as blood or other fluids into the macula. This interferes with its ability to function properly and may cause the retina to become swollen.

How are the symptoms of dry and wet macular degeneration different?

The symptoms of dry and wet macular degeneration differ in a few key ways.

Dry AMD symptoms

The symptoms of dry AMD can include:

  • reduced central vision in one or both eyes
  • increased visual blurriness or fuzziness
  • difficulty recognizing faces or other objects
  • decreased brightness or intensity of colors
  • difficulty reading or other close work without bright lights

Dry AMD symptoms typically affect both eyes. Although, it may seem like your symptoms are limited to only one eye. Dry AMD is more common and progresses slower than wet AMD.

Wet AMD symptoms

The symptoms of wet AMD may include:

  • reduced central vision in one or both eyes
  • haziness, blurriness, or a blind spot in your visual field
  • decreased brightness or intensity of colors
  • visual distortions

Vision loss with wet AMD is usually more severe than with dry AMD. Wet AMD also progresses more quickly than dry AMD and typically causes a rapid change Trusted Source National Eye Institute Governmental authority Go to source in vision.

What are the treatments for dry vs. wet macular degeneration?

Treatments for AMD can differ depending on the type.

Managing dry AMD

There is no specific treatment for dry AMD. However, there are steps you can take to slow the progression of the condition.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a formula containing certain supplements may be beneficial for people with dry AMD. These supplements include:

  • vitamins C or E
  • zinc
  • copper
  • lutein
  • zeaxanthin

Additionally, avoiding known risk factors, such as smoking, can help Trusted Source National Eye Institute Governmental authority Go to source manage this condition. Your doctor may also recommend getting regular exercise and eating a balanced diet.

Managing wet AMD

Treatment for wet AMD typically involves medication.

There are several medications available for treating wet AMD. These help stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels inside the eye. This prevents blood or fluid from leaking into the macula.

In wet AMD, a chemical called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) plays a key role Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source in the development of abnormal blood vessels. Anti-VEGF medications block this chemical from acting.

Examples of anti-VEGF medications include ranibizumab (Lucentis) and aflibercept (Eylea). They can help prevent further vision loss and can sometimes improve sight.

Other treatments for wet AMD can include photodynamic therapy or laser photocoagulation surgery. These procedures use medications and special laser lights to seal off abnormal blood vessels inside your eye. Your doctor may suggest these treatments, however, they are less common than anti-VEGF injections.

What is the outlook for people with dry or wet macular degeneration?

Both dry and wet AMD can impair Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source your ability to see properly. This may interfere with daily life and affect your ability to live independently.

If you notice any vision changes in one or both eyes, contact your doctor for a diagnosis. Receiving a diagnosis early means you can start treatment as soon as possible. Prompt treatment can help prevent prolonged or severe vision loss.

Other frequently asked questions

Grace Zhang, M.D., has reviewed the answers to these common questions about AMD.

Are wet and dry macular degeneration both treatable?

There is no specific treatment for dry AMD. However, doctors may recommend certain supplements and lifestyle changes to help slow its progression. People with wet AMD may need medications, photodynamic therapy, or laser photocoagulation surgery to manage their symptoms.

Is macular degeneration painful?

AMD does not cause pain. However, your vision may become blurry and colors may appear dull. For some people, lines may also appear wavy or crooked instead of straight.

Summary

Both dry and wet AMD can affect your vision and may interfere with your daily activities. If you notice any vision changes, contact your doctor right away for a diagnosis. Prompt treatment can help to slow the progression of AMD.

Talk with your doctor about the best ways to manage your condition.

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Medical Reviewer: Grace Zhang, MD
Last Review Date: 2023 Feb 22
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