Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that affects central vision. People with AMD can’t see people or things directly in front of them. This common age-related eye problem occurs in people over the age of 50. AMD affects the macula, the back part of the retina that controls central vision. People with AMD aren’t completely blind. Their peripheral vision (ability to see things off to the sides) is fine.

AMD may develop in one eye or both eyes.

More than 10 million Americans have macular degeneration. It’s the leading cause of vision loss. The disease affects more people than cataracts and glaucoma combined.

As the name implies, age-related macular degeneration is more likely to occur as you get older. Other risk factors include:

There are two types of AMD:

  • Dry (atrophic): Up to 90% of people with macular degeneration have the dry form. It develops when tiny yellow protein deposits called drusen form under the macula. The built-up deposits dry and thin the macula. Vision loss with the dry form tends to occur gradually. Most people don’t completely lose central vision. Rarely, the dry form leads to the wet form.
  • Wet (exudative): This condition occurs when abnormal blood vessels develop under the retina and macula. The blood vessels leak blood and fluid (a condition called choroidal neovascularization, or CNV). Because of fluid buildup, a bulge forms in the macula. You may see dark spots in your center of vision. About 15% of people with macular degeneration have the wet form. This type is more severe. It can quickly lead to total loss of central vision.

AMD occurs in three stages. Often, symptoms like vision loss aren’t evident until the late stage.

  • Early: The macula changes, but vision isn’t affected.
  • Intermediate: Vision may get blurry or wavy.
  • Late (advanced): Central vision fails completely.

AMD is a type of inherited eye disease. However, the disease also develops in people with no family history of the disease. AMD occurs when the macula at the back of the eye starts to deteriorate for unknown reasons.

The macula helps send images from the eye’s optic nerve to the brain. If you have a damaged macula, your brain can’t understand or read the images that your eyes see.

Many people with age-related macular degeneration don’t have symptoms until the disease progresses. You may experience:

  • Blurred (low) vision.
  • Blank or dark spots in your field of vision.
  • The appearance of waves or curves in straight lines.

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