What is Age Related Macular Degeneration?

What you should know about age-related macular degeneration

Perhaps you have just learned that you or a loved one has age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD. If you are like many people, you probably do not know a lot about the condition or understand what is going on inside your eyes.

This PAGE will give you a general overview of AMD. You will learn about the following:

Risk factors and symptoms of AMD
Treatment options
1)  Low vision services that help people make the most of their remaining eyesight
2) Support groups and others who can help
3) The aim is to answer your questions and to help relieve some of the anxiety you may be feeling.

What is AMD?

AMD is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older. It causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead.

In some people, AMD advances so slowly that vision loss does not occur for a long time. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in one or both eyes. As AMD progresses, a blurred area near the center of vision is a common symptom. Over time, the blurred area may grow larger or you may develop blank spots in your central vision. Objects also may not appear to be as bright as they used to be.

AMD by itself does not lead to complete blindness, with no ability to see. However, the loss of central vision in AMD can interfere with simple everyday activities, such as the ability to see faces, drive, read, write, or do close work, such as cooking or fixing things around the house.

The Macula

The macula is made up of millions of light-sensing cells that provide sharp, central vision. It is the most sensitive part of the retina, which is located at the back of the eye. The retina turns light into electrical signals and then sends these electrical signals through the optic nerve to the brain, where they are translated into the images we see. When the macula is damaged, the center of your field of view may appear blurry, distorted, or dark.

Who is at risk?


1) Age is a major risk factor for AMD. The disease is most likely to occur after age 60, but it can occur earlier. Other risk factors for AMD include:
2) Smoking. Research shows that smoking doubles the risk of AMD.
3) Race. AMD is more common among Caucasians than among African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.
Family history and Genetics. 

4) People with a family history of AMD are at higher risk. At last count, researchers had identified nearly 20 genes that can affect the risk of developing AMD. Many more genetic risk factors are suspected. You may see offers for genetic testing for AMD. Because AMD is influenced by so many genes plus environmental factors such as smoking and nutrition, there are currently no genetic tests that can diagnose AMD, or predict with certainty who will develop it. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (link is external) currently recommends against routine genetic testing for AMD, and insurance generally does not cover such testing.

Does lifestyle make a difference?

Researchers have found links between AMD and some lifestyle choices, such as smoking. You might be able to reduce your risk of AMD or slow its progression by making these healthy choices:

1)  Avoid smoking
2) Exercise regularly
3) Maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
4) Eat a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish


From the NEI

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