Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD), describes a variety of conditions that affect the macula, and thus, central vision. While peripheral vision is what you see toward your sides, central vision is what you see directly in front of you.

According to the National Eye Institute, age-related macular degeneration affects 2 million people and is a leading cause of vision loss in the US. The risk of macular degeneration increases with age. It is most common among older white Americans.

There are two forms of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Dry macular degeneration is the more common type, accounting for 90 percent of diagnosed cases. Wet macular degeneration accounts for 10 percent of cases, but results in 90 percent of legal blindness. It is considered advanced macular degeneration and is always preceded by dry macular degeneration. However, dry macular degeneration does not always lead to wet macular degeneration.

What are the symptoms?

21216CM_EnVision_June_Macular_FBDry macular degeneration symptoms usually develop gradually and painlessly. Possible symptoms include:

  • Difficulty adapting to low light levels, or needing brighter light when reading or doing close work
  • Gradual increase in haziness of your central or overall vision
  • Difficulty recognizing faces
  • A blurred or blind spot in the center of your field of vision

Dry macular degeneration may affect one or both eyes. If only one eye is affected, you may not notice any changes in your vision because the other eye is compensating for the weak eye.

What can I do about macular degeneration?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for macular degeneration, but there are treatments that may slow its progression or even improve vision. A healthy lifestyle may help reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration. Possible health choices include:

  • Avoid smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Wear UV Protection when out doors (Sunglasses, glasses w/ UV coating)
  • Eat a healthy diet with more fruits, vegetables, and fish
  • Maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels

Sometimes, you might not be able to detect macular degeneration until damage has already occurred, but your VSP doctor can – with dilation during your yearly comprehensive eye exam.

The content of this article is for general informational awareness purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult your eyecare doctor or physician for actual advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This article is the work of the attributed author and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of VSP. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

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Judy Nguyen, O.D., is the optometrist at Bella Eye Care Optometry in Newark, CA.