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Macular Degeneration: Signs & Symptoms

During the early stages of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), particularly if only one eye is affected, you may not have symptoms. AMD also causes no pain that might suggest that something is wrong.

An eye doctor may be able to detect early signs of the disease before symptoms appear. Therefore, it is very important to have regular eye examinations to detect these signs as soon as possible.

See how the progression of macular degeneration may affect your vision. 

Early Signs of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

At first, the dry type of macular degeneration often causes slightly blurred central vision, both close up and far. The center of vision may become fuzzy or shadowed, and this area grows larger as the disease progresses. Blind spots may develop, and people normally have more difficulty seeing color and fine detail.

In addition to the above signs, in wet macular degeneration, straight lines may appear wavy. Also, in this more severe form, central vision loss can occur rapidly, sometimes within days or weeks.

Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

AMD can cause a variety of symptoms that can affect your daily life:

  • Visual field defect
    The wide angle of vision that a healthy eye can see is called the "visual field." As AMD progresses, the center of a person's visual field may become smudged, distorted or lost. This defect causes problems with reading, driving, watching TV and recognizing faces.
  • Contrast sensitivity
    It becomes more difficult to see textures and subtle changes in the environment. If you become unable to see slight contrasts and textures in pavements or stairs, it can be dangerous and lead to an increased risk of falls. You may have difficulty distinguishing between two colors of a similar hue when placed side by side.
  • Poor tolerance for changing light levels
    It may become difficult for your eyes to adjust when driving and walking at sunset, or when going from a well-lighted room to a darker one. Glare can worsen the problem. For example, a bright shaft of sunlight streaming in through a window may cause everything outside the glare to "black out."
  • Need for higher light levels
    You may find that you need brighter light levels for reading, cooking and performing day-to-day tasks.
  • Impaired depth perception
    An inability to properly judge distances can also make walking harder, potentially leading to missteps and falls.

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