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Geographic Atrophy (GA) Fact Sheet

  • Fact Sheet
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What is Geographic Atrophy?

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

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

AMD is a disease that damages photoreceptors, light-sensing nerve cells in the retina. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss among older adults. Because it causes damage (or “degeneration”) to cells of the macula, at the center of the eye, 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

Despite its severity, AMD usually doesn’t affect both eyes equally. Many people find they can adapt and function by making the most of their remaining vision. Specially trained low vision therapists can help with daily life functions.

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

Treatments for GA

The first treatment for geographic atrophy was approved in February 2023; additional promising treatments are in clinical trials. BrightFocus is funding innovative research into new drugs and ways to manage and treat this complex form of AMD. Learn more about clinical trials.


Information about GA

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

AMD Community Circle
Join our monthly Zoom meeting for people with AMD to share tips and ask questions. Click here to learn more.

Clinical Trials: Your Questions Answered
A BrightFocus publication answering all your questions about clinical trials. Read it online, or request by calling 1-800-437-2423.

Clinical Trials Finder
Click here to learn more.

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