program logo/macu/on light

Geographic Atrophy Fact Sheet

  • Fact Sheet
Published on:

What is Geographic Atrophy?

Geographic atrophy (GA) is an advanced and severe form of dry age-related macular degeneration. In GA, small clusters of cells degenerate and die (atrophy).

In retinal images, these regions of dead and dying cells resemble a map, hence the term geographic atrophy.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that damages photoreceptors, light-sensing nerve cells in the retina, and is a leading cause of vision loss among older adults. Because it causes damage (or degeneration) to cells at the center of the eye called the macula, it blurs central, focused vision, making it harder to drive, read, cook, and recognize faces.

Children standing side by side with the a circular region of the photo blurred and blackened out.

Symptoms of Geographic Atrophy

  • Difficulty reading in dim lighting situations
  • Central vision loss
  • Black spot in central vision
  • Slower reading speed
  • Glare
maculopathy diagram
A female eye doctor talking with her patient.

Diagnosing GA

GA is diagnosed during a dilated eye exam, when an ophthalmologist or another type of retinal specialist uses imaging technology to examine the back of the eye. In a dilated exam, GA appears as a patch of retina missing its dark pigment.

Living Well with GA

Geographic atrophy can affect one or both eyes, and someone with geographic atrophy in one eye is more likely to develop it in the other. 

Salmon and greens on a plate.

To preserve remaining vision, it’s important to protect eye health:

  • If you are a smoker, stop right away
  • Eat a healthy diet rich with antioxidants and omega-3 such as fish, whole grains, and dark leafy greens
  • Exercise regularly
  • Ask your eye doctor if the AREDS2 formula of vitamin and mineral would be beneficial
  • Get regular, dilated eye exams and use an Amsler grid to monitor your vision. Visit to download one for free.

Treatments for GA

The first treatments for geographic atrophy were approved in 2023. These treatments slow the progression of vision loss from GA by reducing the rate of geographic atrophy lesion growth with monthly injections. For more details, download our Macular Degeneration Treatments fact sheet at or call us to request a printed copy.


Information about geographic atrophy

BrightFocus Macular Chats
Free, monthly discussions with leaders in vision research care that you can attend by phone or on your streaming device. To be notified about and register for upcoming chats, listen to past programs, or read the transcripts, visit

AMD Community Circle
A free, monthly Zoom meeting for people with AMD to share tips, ask questions, and build community. Learn more at

Clinical Trials: Your Questions Answered
Read the brochure online at at or request a hard copy by calling 1-855-345-6637.

Clinical Trials Finder
Find a clinical trial or research study near you. Visit

Disclaimer: The information provided is a public service of BrightFocus Foundation and is not intended to constitute medical advice. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice; all medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy.

Don't miss out.

Receive macular degeneration breakthrough news, research updates, and inspiring stories.