Heather S. Oliff, PhD
The retina is the tissue that lines the back of the eye. It sends visual signals to the brain. The macula is part of the retina. It is responsible for central vision. Macular degeneration is the most common cause of destruction of the macula in older adults. It causes a gradual loss of sharp, central vision. The condition is mainly a disease of aging. In rare cases, it can occur in younger people.
There are two types of adult (or age-related) macular degeneration (AMD):
The cause of AMD is not known.
Generally risk increases with age. AMD is most commonly seen in women and in people who are Caucasian. Other factors that may increase your chance of getting AMD include:
In some people, AMD advances slowly. It has little effect on their vision. In others, the disease moves faster. It may lead to significant vision loss. Neither dry AMD nor wet AMD causes pain.
Symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A
will be done. AMD may be suspected if you are older and have had recent changes in your central vision. A specialist will look for signs of the disease with an eye exam. Eye drops will be used to dilate (enlarge) your pupils. This will allow a view of the back of the eye.
You may also be asked to view an Amsler grid. This is a pattern that looks like a checkerboard. Changes in your central vision will cause the grid to appear distorted. This is a sign of AMD.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment options for you. Options may include:
Research has suggested certain high-dose vitamins and minerals may slow the progression of the disease in some people.
This procedure is used in some cases of wet AMD. A strong laser light beam is aimed at the new blood vessels. The beam destroys the vessels. It usually takes less than 30 minutes to complete. You may need more laser treatments. This treatment is used less often than newer treatments.
This procedure involves injecting a light-sensitive dye into your blood. The affected areas in the back of the eye are then treated with a special laser light. The light activates the dye to destroy certain blood vessels. It takes less than 30 minutes. You may need to have additional treatments.
Another way to treat wet AMD is an injection of a special medication. It is called a vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor. The medication is injected into the vitreous (fluid) in the back of the eye. It usually needs to be repeated multiple times.
There are no current guidelines to prevent AMD.
For overall eye health:
American Macular Degeneration Foundation
Macular Degeneration Foundation
AMD Alliance International
The National Coalition for Vision Health
Age-related macular degeneration. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 13, 2014. Accessed July 17, 2014.
Adult macular degeneration. Macular Degeneration Foundation website. Available at:
Accessed July 17, 2014.
Age-related macular degeneration. National Eye Institute website. Available at:
http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/index.asp. Accessed July 17, 2014.
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Last reviewed June 2014 by Eric Berman, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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