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Frequently Asked Questions

Latest Questions and Answers
How many people are estimated to have age-related macular degeneration (AMD)? [ 11/04/14 ]

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of visual impairment in the U.S. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of visual impairment in the United States. As many as 11 million Americans have some form of macular degeneration, including both early and later stages of the wet and dry forms. More than two million people, aged 50 and older, are living with the most advanced forms of the disease.

Can you get age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in only one eye or does it usually occur in both? [ 11/04/14 ]

It is possible to develop AMD in only one eye. However, as the disease progresses both eyes may become affected. If an individual has macular degeneration in one eye, he or she is more likely to develop it in the other eye than someone who does not.

If diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, what questions should I ask my doctor? [ 11/04/14 ]
  • Do I have wet macular degeneration or dry?
  • Do I have it in one eye or both eyes?
  • What stage of the disease do I have?
  • How often should I come in for check-ups?
  • What is the Amsler grid and how often should I perform a test with it at home?
  • Are there things that I can do to delay disease progression?
  • What are the current treatments for macular degeneration?
  • Are there lifestyle changes that I should make?
  • Should I alter my diet?
  • Do my current medications affect disease progression?
  • Should I begin to take vitamin supplements?
  • Will vitamin supplementation interfere with medications, or vice versa?
  • Are there any experimental treatments for macular degeneration?

What is an Amsler grid? [ 11/04/14 ]

To discover any changes to your vision as early as possible, your eye care professional will probably have you test your own vision on a regular schedule using a small, hand-held Amsler grid.  He or she may also do this at the office. At home, you will hold the chart at reading distance in good light, cover one eye, and focus on a black dot in the middle of the grid, then repeat with the other eye. If the lines of the grid appear dim, irregular, wavy, or fuzzy, you should schedule an eye exam immediately.

You can download an Amsler grid at www.brightfocus.org/amsler.

Do wet and dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have early, intermediate and advanced stages? [ 11/04/14 ]

All wet AMD is considered advanced; however, the dry form of AMD has three stages:

  • Early AMD - patients have several small drusen or a few medium-sized drusen. There is no vision loss or symptoms at this stage.
  • Intermediate AMD - patients have many medium-sized drusen or one or more large drusen. Some people may need more light for tasks such as reading. A blurry spot may appear in the center of the visual field.
  • Advanced AMD - patients exhibit a large number of drusen deposits and a breakdown of RPE and photoreceptor (light sensitive) cells and supporting tissue in the retina. A large blurry spot occurs in the center of the visual field and can become larger and darker, eventually causing a complete loss of central vision.

Where can I find more information about macular degeneration? [ 11/04/14 ]

The BrightFocus Macular Degeneration Research website goes into greater depth on many of the above topics and covers additional areas of concern, both medical and social. You can learn where to get help and access to resources, as well as download free publications. And explore our Ask an Expert section where you can read or post queries to doctors.

Visit www.childrenscorner.org for information for all members of the family, with stories, games, and other interactive learning tools.

For more information dealing with the topics below, please visit the helpful organizations section of our website. 

  • Clinical Trials
  • Organizations of Eye-care Professionals
  • Federal Government Programs and Services
  • General Information, Resources and Referrals
  • Legal Assistance
  • Low Vision Aid Resources
  • Low Vision Organizations
  • Print and Audio Materials for the Visually Impaired
  • Senior Housing
  • State and Local Resources

How is age-related macular degeneration (AMD) diagnosed? [ 11/04/14 ]

To help diagnose AMD, an eye care professional will perform a dilated eye exam to view the retina and optic nerve for damage, a visual acuity test to measure sight from various distances and a fundoscopy to examine the back of the eye. If wet AMD is suspected, fluorescein angiography, in which dye is used to detect leaking blood vessels, may also be performed. The patient might be asked to look at Amsler grid; if the straight lines on the grid appear wavy or distorted, AMD may be developing.

Do people with macular degeneration ever have visual hallucinations? [ 11/04/14 ]

Yes, some people with macular degeneration also develop Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS) and hallucinate. Some eye diseases prevent normal nerve impulses from reaching the brain, and it is believed that spontaneous, brain-generated nerve activity may cause visual hallucinations. CBS appears to be more common in women than men and is more likely to occur if both eyes are affected by disease. The hallucinations are normally complex and can include detailed patterns or fully formed images such as animals, people, faces or scenery. Patients know that the hallucinations are not real. These images are not associated with any other sensory (e.g., sound or odor) hallucinations, nor are they delusions. The hallucinations may last for seconds or for most of the day. They tend to disappear when people close their eyes. CBS may last for days or even years, but can be managed by educating the patient and reassuring him or her that the images are a result of eye disease, not a mental disorder.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional; it is not intended to constitute medical advice. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy. All medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. Also, although we make every effort to keep the medical information on our website updated, we cannot guarantee that the posted information reflects the most up-to-date research.

Some of the content in this section is adapted from other sources, which are clearly identified within each individual item of information.

Last Review: 08/23/13

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