AMD is very common! Over 10 million people in the United States have AMD.
AMD can strike anyone! But some people are at higher risk - older adults, Caucasians, people with a family history, and smokers.
Early stages can be silent! In the most common type of AMD, the earliest stages do not cause symptoms, so regular eye exams are critical.
New treatments are being studied! There are many clinical studies ongoing and new clinical trials are evaluating stem cell transplants.
What Is AMD?
AMD is a leading cause of vision loss for older individuals.1-3 It is a disease that causes damage to the central part of the retina called the macula— the part of the eye that controls your central vision. Losing your central vision can make it harder to see faces, read, drive, or do close-up work.1 There are two main types, dry AMD (more common) and wet AMD (more severe) although a recent study suggests that AMD may have far more subtypes than previously believed.2
What Are the Signs?
The first signs of AMD may only be detectable on an eye exam, but over time you might notice the following:
- Difficulty seeing in the center of your vision
- Trouble seeing in dim light
- Straight lines start to appear wavy, blurry or missing
- Fading and/or changes in the appearance of colors
- Dark, blurry areas or whiteout in the center of vision
What Are the Risk Factors?
AMD is more common in older ages, Caucasians, and those with a family history. Other risk factors include smoking, poor diet, heart disease and high blood pressure. You can reduce your risk by avoiding smoking, eating a healthy diet low in saturated fats and high in green, leafy vegetables, maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and getting regular physical activity.1,2
What Can I Do?
Regular eye exams are the key to protecting your vision from damage caused by AMD.1 Some of the tests your doctor will do include:
- Visual acuity: A chart is used to assess visual acuity in each eye and central vision.
- Dilated eye examination: Eye drops dilate (widen) the pupil of the eye, allowing the back of the eye to be closely examined.
- Optical coherence tomography (OCT). This test lets a doctor take pictures of the inside of your eye.
- Amsler grid: A special grid with straight horizontal and vertical lines (like graph paper) is used to screen for AMD. Learn more here.
Treatment depends on the stage and type. If you have the more common dry AMD, you may be prescribed special vitamins and minerals to slow progression and prevent AMD in the other eye. If you have the more severe wet AMD, there are medications that can be injected into the eye, and photodynamic therapy, involving both injections and laser treatment. Recently a new injectable medication for wet AMD was approved by the FDA, and new clinical trials are evaluating stem cell transplants.4
1. Macular Degeneration. American Macular Degeneration Foundation; 2. Fleckenstein M et al. Age-related macular degeneration. Nat Rev Dis Primers 2021; 3. Dougherty M, et al. Published Examination-based Prevalence of Major Eye Disorders 2018; 4. Clinical Trial Highlight: Stem Cell Transplants for Dry AMD National Eye Institute, NIH.