Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that affects central vision. Early symptoms include blurry vision, dark spots, and washed-out colors. However, many people have no symptoms of early AMD.

There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. Dry is more common.

In dry AMD, degenerative changes cause the macula to thin, and debris called drusen builds up underneath the retina. Although supplements are recommended to support eye health, there is no cure for dry AMD.

Wet AMD happens when abnormal blood vessels in the eye leak fluids. Doctors use treatments that stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels, preventing more fluid from leaking into the retina.

Macular degeneration is a progressive condition, so it is important to identify it early to treat and manage symptoms. Left untreated, it can cause greater loss of vision.

Read on to learn more about the early signs of macular degeneration.

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The early signs of AMD can vary, but they primarily involve the ability to focus and see things clearly.

AMD affects the macula, which is located in the center of the retina and responsible for central vision. When the macula is damaged, it can no longer send clear visual impulses to the brain. Vision becomes less sharp, and it is harder to see details.

In AMD, vision changes can happen gradually. The early stages of macular degeneration may not have any symptoms.

Additionally, many people will only have one eye affected. This can make the early symptoms less noticeable.

Here are some early symptoms of AMD:

Blurry vision

When the macula is damaged, vision starts to get blurry. Initially, the blurred area is only a small point right in the center of vision.

Blurry or fuzzy vision may come and go, while side (peripheral) vision may still be sharp and clear. As AMD progresses, the blurred area becomes larger.

Dark spots

A damaged macula can no longer send an accurate message to the brain about what it sees, and dark spots may start to appear in the central vision.

Images directly in front of a person can have tiny dark spots. Over time, they may get larger, and more of a person’s vision will be made up of dark spots.

Wavy lines

Another sign is when lines and borders appear less defined. Straight lines may start to look distorted and wavy, and the borders of objects may appear to bleed into the background.

One of the tests used to diagnose AMD is a square containing a grid pattern and a dot in the middle. For someone with AMD, these lines look warped and wavy.

Washed-out colors

The macula plays a role in sending messages to the brain about color, so AMD can make colors appear less vibrant than usual. Some people will notice bright white spots in their vision.

Difficulty with daily tasks

Daily tasks can become more difficult when the macula no longer operates as usual. Tasks that require close focus will be especially challenging.

Reading, writing, or crafting may require brighter lighting and glasses.

Additional symptoms

Many people with early AMD do not have any obvious signs. There may not be any noticeable change in vision or ability to do daily tasks, especially if only one eye is affected by macular degeneration.

Therefore, annual eye exams are important. An eye care professional can monitor for changes in the macula.

The biggest risk factor for developing macular degeneration is being over the age of 50. People over 50 should have a yearly appointment with an ophthalmologist, or eye doctor, to check for signs of AMD.

Additionally, anything that affects circulation in the body can damage the tiny blood vessels in the eyes. Damage to the blood vessels in the eyes can worsen AMD. They include:

  • smoking
  • having high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • having high cholesterol
  • eating a diet high in saturated fats

Learn more about the risk factors for AMD.

It is a good idea for anyone who notices changes in their eyes or vision to talk with an eye specialist. For people over 50, yearly eye exams are a way to monitor eye health and catch any changes early.

If any symptoms of AMD are present, a doctor will perform further testing.

AMD is a progressive eye condition. In its early stages, a person may have no symptoms. Others may experience dark spots, blurred vision, and changes in color perception.

Typically, central (straight-ahead) vision is affected, while peripheral (side) vision may still be normal. People over 50 should have yearly check-ups with an eye doctor to check for signs of AMD.