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What is age-related macular degeneration?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

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.

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 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.

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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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.