Macular degeneration

Other Names:
Age-related macular degeneration
Macular dystrophy

Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD), is a medical condition which may result in blurred or no vision in the center of the visual field. Early on there are often no symptoms. Over time, however, some people experience a gradual worsening of vision that may affect one or both eyes. While it does not result in complete blindness, loss of central vision can make it hard to recognize faces, drive, read, or perform other activities of daily life. Visual hallucinations may also occur but these do not represent a mental illness.

Macular degeneration typically occurs in older people. Genetic factors and smoking also play a role. It is due to damage to the macula of the retina. Diagnosis is by a complete eye exam. The severity is divided into early, intermediate, and late types. The late type is additionally divided into "dry" and "wet" forms with the dry form making up 90% of cases.

There are two main types of AMD: Dry form and Wet form. The difference between these two forms is the change of macula. People with dry form AMD will have few of a cellular debris called drusen in their macula which will gradually lead to damage of light-sensitive cells and loss of vision. While people with wet form AMD, blood vessels grow underneath their macula which leads to the leakage of blood and fluid into their retina.

Preventive efforts include exercising, eating well, and not smoking. There is no cure or treatment that returns vision already lost. In the wet form, anti-VEGF medication injected into the eye or less commonly laser coagulation or photodynamic therapy may slow worsening. Antioxidant vitamins and minerals do not appear to be useful for prevention. However, dietary supplements may slow the progression in those who already have the disease.

Age-related macular degeneration is a main cause of central blindness among the working-aged population worldwide. As of 2020, it affects more than 190 million people globally with the prevalence expected to increase to 288 million people by 2040 as the proportion of elderly persons in the population increases. It is equally seen in males and females and it is more common in those of European or North American ancestry. In 2013 it was the fourth most common cause of blindness after cataracts, preterm birth, and glaucoma. It most commonly occurs in people over the age of fifty and in the United States is the most common cause of vision loss in this age group. About 0.4% of people between 50 and 60 have the disease, while it occurs in 0.7% of people 60 to 70, 2.3% of those 70 to 80, and nearly 12% of people over 80 years old.


Macular degeneration is the leading cause of legal blindness in the USA. Macular degeneration is mostly an age-related condition. It is rare among the young, but the incidence is nearly 25% by age 85. A recent estimate is that 13 million Americans over 40 have signs of macular degeneration. This is much higher than a previous estimate of 3.2 +/- 0.5 million people between 55 and 85 years of age, with another 0.9 million of the over-85 age group.

Heredity, race and sex contribute to the risk of macular degeneration; whites are more susceptible than blacks, Hispanics and women are twice as prone as men to develop it.

Lifestyle issues are important risk factors for this disease. A main characteristic of the disease is damage to the macula through oxidation. Oxidation is encouraged smoking, diets deficient in fruits and vegetables, large consumption of alcohol, saturated fats and cholesterol. Exposure to bright sunlight may be a risk factor for early age-related maculopathy. A US study found that people who spend more than five hours daily outside in the summertime have an increased risk of developing early age-related retina damage that can lead to vision loss. The study also linked wearing hats and sunglasses with a slightly - but insignificantly - lower chance of developing age-related maculopathy.

Narrower Problems:
Juvenile macular degeneration
Blurred vision
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
Problem Type:
G: Very specific problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST