• What Is Macular Degeneration?

    Written by: Kierstan Boyd
    Mar. 01, 2017

    Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a problem with your retina. It happens when a part of the retina called the macula is damaged. With AMD you lose your central vision. You cannot see fine details, whether you are looking at something close or far. But your peripheral (side) vision will still be normal. For instance, imagine you are looking at a clock with hands. With AMD, you might see the clock’s numbers but not the hands.

    AMD is very common. It is a leading cause of vision loss in people 50 years or older.

    Eye anatomy diagramMany older people develop macular degeneration as part of the body's natural aging process. There are different kinds of macular problems, but the most common is age-related macular degeneration.

    Two types of AMD

    Dry AMD

    This form is quite common. About 80% (8 out of 10) people who have AMD have the dry form. Dry AMD is when parts of the macula get thinner with age and tiny clumps of protein called drusen grow. You slowly lose central vision. There is no way to treat dry AMD yet.

    Wet AMD

    This form is less common but much more serious. Wet AMD is when new, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. These vessels may leak blood or other fluids, causing scarring of the macula. You lose vision faster with wet AMD than with dry AMD.

    Many people don’t realize they have AMD until their vision is very blurry. This is why it is important to have regular visits to an ophthalmologist. He or she can look for early signs of AMD before you have any vision problems.

    Test your vision with the Amsler grid

    Amsler gridAMD causes your vision to change over time. You may not notice these changes when they happen. But you need to catch vision changes as soon as possible. Treating them early can help slow or stop further loss of sight.

    You should use an Amsler grid every day to monitor your vision. One is above for you to use.

    Here is how to use the Amsler grid:

    Keep the Amsler grid in a place where you see it every day. Many people keep an Amsler grid on their refrigerator door or on their bathroom mirror.

    In good light, look at the grid from about 12–15 inches away. Be sure to wear your reading glasses if you normally use them.

    Cover one eye. Look directly at the dot in the center of the grid with your uncovered eye. Notice if any of the lines look bent or wavy. See if any part of the grid looks blurry, dim, or out of shape.

    Now cover your other eye and test your vision this same way again.

    Call your ophthalmologist right away if you notice that any lines or parts of the grid look wavy, blurry, or dim.