Macular degeneration, also called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), refers to a gradual loss of central vision. There are two main types — dry and wet.
Macular degeneration causes blurry central vision. An estimated
There are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Dry is the more common type while wet is an advanced form of macular degeneration that leads to more rapid vision loss.
Both types are progressive conditions. Treatment can slow progression to preserve more of a person’s vision.
This article reviews the two types of macular degeneration, their stages, and more.
The macula is located in the center of the retina. People living with dry macular degeneration will notice blurry vision starting to affect their central vision. This can cause other symptoms, such as difficulty seeing in low light.
Once it advances, a person may notice changes in how colors look, as well as blind spots in their central vision.
Early stages of dry macular degeneration have no treatment options. An eye doctor will monitor a person’s vision with regular examinations. They may also recommend a person:
- eat a healthful diet
- get plenty of exercise
- quit or avoid smoking
As the condition progresses, a doctor
However, once it progresses to an advanced or late stage, there is no effective treatment available.
Geographic atrophy is an advanced stage of macular degeneration. It affects an estimated 1 million people in the United States.
When it occurs, retina cells die off, causing further vision loss. It can cause symptoms, such as:
- dark spots in the central vision
- numbers or letters disappearing when reading
- dull, washed-out colors
- needing more light to read
- trouble seeing in dimly lit rooms
- blurry vision
Not everyone with dry macular degeneration will develop geographic atrophy. Certain risk factors can increase a person’s chances of developing it, such as:
- their family history
- being over the age of 60
- a poor diet
- living with high blood pressure or cholesterol
- having obesity
- prolonged, lifetime sun exposure
- living with diabetes or heart disease
In 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first medication for geographic atrophy called pegcetacoplan (Empaveli). This medication can help slow the progression of the condition and help preserve vision.
Wet macular degeneration is less common than dry, accounting for about 20% of all people with AMD. Experts consider it an advanced stage of macular degeneration, and it can lead to more rapid vision loss.
It occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. The abnormal vessels may then leak or bleed, leading to vision loss.
There are four stages of macular degeneration.
Subclinical macular degeneration means that a person shows very early signs that macular degeneration may occur. A person will not typically have any symptoms, but they may benefit from monitoring.
In the early stage of macular degeneration, a person will not generally show any signs of symptoms. A doctor
- getting regular exercise
- quitting smoking
- eating a healthful diet
Some people will start to notice mild symptoms at this stage, but others will not notice anything different with their vision. Some symptoms that a person may notice include mild blurriness in their central vision and trouble seeing in low light.
There is an association between advanced dry or wet macular degeneration with significant central vision loss. A person may notice straight lines become wavy, large blurry areas or dark spots, and diminished colors.
The following sections provide answers to frequently asked questions about macular degeneration.
Is wet or dry macular degeneration treatable?
Early stages of dry macular degeneration
Intermediate dry macular degeneration may benefit from AREDS 2, a supplement regime that helps slow progression.
Advanced dry macular degeneration with geographic atrophy may benefit from pegcetacoplan, an injectable medication.
Wet macular degeneration often responds to anti-VEGF drug injections or photodynamic therapy (PDT).
What type of macular degeneration is the most serious?
Wet macular degeneration is an advanced form of the condition, and experts generally consider it the most severe form. Treatments can help preserve vision and prevent vision loss.
How do people cope with macular degeneration?
Learning to live with vision loss due to macular degeneration is possible. Many people benefit from assistive devices, such as magnifying glasses or specialized computers and screens. A person may also find working with a vision rehabilitation specialist helps them better utilize their side vision.
Macular degeneration is an age-related vision condition in which a person loses clarity in their central vision. The most common type is dry, which is divided into stages based on severity. Wet macular degeneration is an advanced form of the condition.
A person can take steps to decrease their chances of developing macular degeneration. Diet, exercise, regular eye exams, and not smoking can help a person care for their eyes.
Intermediate dry macular degeneration can benefit from a vitamin and mineral supplement called AREDS 2. Wet macular degeneration has two main treatment options that a doctor may recommend.
A person should discuss their outlook and treatment plan with an eye doctor. They can recommend a schedule for eye exams, provide necessary treatments, and recommend other specialists, as needed.