Quick Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which affects central vision, can occur in one or both eyes.

  • The disease can progress slowly or quickly.

  • Two types of AMD exist: dry and wet.

  • A person can have either or both types.

  • Dry AMD can suddenly change into the wet type of the disease.

  • Dry AMD can advance and cause central vision loss without changing into wet AMD.

  • Not everyone with early AMD will develop advanced AMD.

  • The advanced form of dry AMD is called geographic atrophy

  • A person with advanced AMD does not experience total blindness, but the loss of central vision can significantly interfere with everyday activities.

A close up of a blue eye.

As many as 11 million Americans have some type of macular degeneration, including both the early and later stages of the wet and dry types. This number is expected to double to nearly 22 million by 2050.

What Is Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye disease among people 60 and older and is a leading cause of irreversible vision loss. For Caucasians older than 40, it is the leading cause of legal blindness.

AMD causes deterioration of the macula, the central area of the retina. The retina is a paper-thin tissue at the back of the eye where light sensitive cells send visual signals to the brain. Sharp, clear, straight-ahead vision is processed by the macula. Damage to it results in blind spots and blurred or distorted vision. Those affected by AMD find many daily activities, such as driving and reading, increasingly difficult.

A photomicrograph of cones in the eye.
The light-sensitive photoreceptors of the eye—the rod and cone cells shown here—need a steady energy supply to function, and that becomes deficient in AMD.

In the very center of the retina is the macula, which contains the highest concentration of light-sensitive cells, called cones.

  • Cones provide sharp, detailed, central vision used in activities like driving and reading.
  • In macular degeneration, cells in the macular region begin to die, causing blind spots and distorted central vision.



Treatment & Drugs

If you are diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), you need to see your eye doctor regularly to determine how quickly your disease is progressing. Your doctor can:

  • Tell you how to control risk factors for AMD
  • Show you how to use the Amsler grid, a simple method by which you can regularly monitor and detect any subtle changes in your vision on your own

At the first sign of any visual changes—no matter how small they may seem—you should make an appointment with your eye care provider.

Macular Degeneration Research (MDR) Program

An eye doctor talking to a patient and pointing to a digital tablet that has a photo of a retina.

The key in finding a cure.

Scientific evidence shows that genes may play a role in the development of nearly three out of four cases of this devastating eye disease. Since its inception, the MDR program has awarded nearly $46 million to support research into the causes and potential preventions and treatments of macular degeneration disease.

Donate to Macular Degeneration Research

Your gift can help lead to treatments and a cure to end macular degeneration. Fund the latest, promising research and help provide valuable information to families living with this disease.

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Researchers are investigating many potential treatments for AMD and testing them in human clinical trials. For snapshots of clinical trials, explore Antidote, a search engine that can find a trial that’s right for you.

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