What is age-related macular degeneration?

Among the vision problems that plague older women and men, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is perhaps the most serious. Although the chance of developing AMD is lower than the risk of cataracts (30 percent vs. 70 percent in women over 75), macular degeneration is more difficult to treat and thus a greater source of disability in older women men. However, promising approaches to preventing and treating AMD are emerging.

When the macula, a collection of cells in the center of the retina, begins to deteriorate, central vision is eroded. Nine out of 10 people with AMD have the dry, or atrophic, form of this disease, which progresses slowly through early, intermediate and advanced stages. The remaining 10 percent have wet AMD, which begins as the dry form and is characterized by the sudden growth of abnormal blood vessels behind the macula.

Smoking increases the risk of developing both types of AMD. Diets low in green, leafy vegetables and high in fat are also associated with AMD.

Age-related macular degeneration is a progressive eye condition and the leading cause of vision loss and legal blindness among people age 60 and older. It causes damage to the macula, a small area near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead. Peripheral vision may still allow some sight “out of the corner of your eye,” but this vision is often not sharp enough for many normal activities. The National Institutes of Health defines two types of age-related macular degeneration:

  • Wet age-related macular degeneration, caused by abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood into the region of the macula.
  • Dry age-related macular degeneration, more common and marked by deterioration and/or scarring of the macula.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is deterioration of the macula, which is the central part of the retina that distinguishes fine detail. It causes a gradual loss of central vision, making it difficult to see objects, and is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans age 60 or older. There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. The dry type usually starts with blurred vision, which often goes away in brighter light. The classic early symptom in wet AMD is straight lines that appear crooked.

Over age 60? Get screened for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in people of that age group. With AMD, the most sensitive part of the retina—the macula—degenerates to the point that central vision is gradually lost. Picture a large smudge in the center of a movie screen.

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Dr. Jeffrey S. Heier, MD
Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) strikes at the macula, the heart of the eye's vision center. This small part of the retina (the innermost layer of the eye), which measures only about 3 by 5 millimeters (less than one-quarter-inch square) is responsible for sharp, central vision. People with AMD often develop blurred or distorted vision and cannot clearly see objects directly in front of them. Eventually they may develop a blind spot in the middle of their field of vision that increases in size as the disease progresses.

Although the disorder eventually can become debilitating, in the earliest stages of AMD there often are no warning symptoms. If the condition progresses to intermediate AMD, some people begin to notice blurring in the center of their vision. At the advanced stage, the blurred area increases, making it hard to read or even recognize people. About eight million Americans have early or intermediate AMD, and more than two million people ages 50 and older have an advanced form that is characterized by severe vision problems.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease of the macula, the small part of the eye’s retina that is responsible for our central vision. This condition affects both distance and close vision and can make some activities—like threading a needle or reading—very difficult or impossible. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over the age of 50.

Many people with AMD have deposits under the retina called drusen. Drusen alone usually do not cause vision loss, but when they grow in size or number, there is an increased risk of developing advanced AMD. People at risk of developing a late stage of AMD may have a large amount of drusen or they may have abnormal blood vessels growing beneath the macula in one eye.

Age-related macular degeneration is a condition in which there is a slow breakdown of cells in the center of the retina (the light-sensitive layers of nerve tissue at the back of the eye). This blocks vision in the center of the eye and can cause problems with activities such as reading and driving. Age-related macular degeneration is most often seen in people who are over the age of 50. Also called AMD, ARMD and macular degeneration.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD for short, is a painless disease that results in a blind spot and can impair vision. Watch the animation to learn more about this disorder.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.