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Age-related macular degeneration

Understanding age-related macular degeneration1

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that can affect your vision over time.

As the leading cause of vision loss in people aged 60 and over, it’s important to know which signs to look out for.

If you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one, talk to your doctor and scroll to find out more.

Here are some of the key terms we use when talking about AMD:

  • Age-related
    AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people aged 60 and over.
  • Macular
    It affects a part of the eye called the macula, which is responsible for central vision.
  • Degeneration
    AMD progresses slowly over time though the speed can change according to which type of AMD you have.
  • Dry AMD
    This is the early stage of AMD that progresses slowly over time.
  • Wet AMD
    This is otherwise known as neovascular AMD. 10% of dry AMD cases will become wet AMD, a condition that progresses quickly.
  • Central vision
    The part of your vision you use to focus clearly on something directly in front of you, like reading a book.

Symptoms of AMD2,3

During the early stages of AMD, you can experience a range of symptoms.

While symptoms may vary from person to person, they’re usually a combination of
those shown below:


Blurred vision

The centre of your vision may become smudged or blurry.


Difficulty with everyday tasks

Seeing smaller details can become difficult. This means that you may struggle with tasks like reading, driving, or watching the TV.


Trouble seeing colours

The way you see colours may change with some colours seeming dimmer than usual.


Blind spots

Dark spots may appear in your vision, making it hard for you to see straight ahead.


Wavy edges and lines

Straight lines may appear wavy, bent, or crooked.

Risk factors of AMD4,5

AMD isn’t caused by any one particular thing. Instead, it’s a combination of risk factors:



The risk of AMD increases with age. In fact, one third of adults over 75 is living with AMD.



If someone in your immediate family has a history of AMD, you’re more likely to develop it yourself.


High BMI

BMI uses your body weight and height to work out if your weight is healthy. If your BMI is over 30, you’re more likely to develop AMD compared to someone with a lower BMI.



Smoking can increase your risk of developing AMD.



Women are more at risk of AMD than men due to longer life expectancy.

How does AMD affect the eye?

Healthy eye

Healthy eye


The retina, at the back of the eye, detects light. This information is sent to the brain to be processed as sight. In a healthy eye, the macula is the central part of the retina responsible for clear vision.3

Eye with AMD

Eye with AMD


This image is meant to show you one of the symptoms you may experience. Symptoms can vary depending on the severity level of the disease and will be unique for each person. If you are concerned about your vision, talk to your doctor.

When we develop AMD, this can lead to changes in the macula. As a result, the quality of central vision can weaken.

Two types of AMD1,3,6

There are two main types of AMD:



The early stage is called dry AMD.3



The later stage is called wet AMD, otherwise known as neovascular AMD (nAMD).1,6

It’s important to note that not everyone will go on to develop wet AMD.

Dry AMD1,3,6

The most common type of AMD is dry AMD.

How does dry AMD develop?


In dry AMD, debris builds up in an area at the back of the eye called the macula. This build-up can lead to vision loss over time.


The early symptoms of dry AMD can often be confused with ordinary signs of aging since they progress so slowly. However, at its worst, dry AMD can result in blank patches in the centre of your vision.

Wet AMD1,3,6

If left untreated, dry AMD can progress into wet AMD.
In fact, around 10% of people with dry AMD will experience this.1,6


of people with dry AMD will experience wet AMD


How does wet AMD develop?1,3,6

  • Wet AMD begins when abnormal blood vessels grow in the eye. 
  • These tiny vessels can start to leak and damage vision.

There are ways to treat wet AMD but, if left untreated, it can lead to irreversible vision loss.

We see you

Dealing with vision loss can sometimes feel overwhelming. That’s why we’re here to help guide you along your journey: making the most of your vision so that you can keep doing all of the things that make you, you. Explore our tips and tricks for living with low vision.

Monitoring your vision

While you might find that you’ve adapted well to life with vision loss, it’s important to keep monitoring your eye health closely.

The Amsler grid is a simple eye test that can help you do just that, whether you’re on the go or in the comfort of your own home.


1. Bright Focus Foundation. Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Facts & Figures. [Internet; cited March 2021]. Available from:

2. Bright Focus Foundation. Macular Degeneration Essential Facts. [Internet; cited March 2021]. Available from:

3. Kellogg Eye Center. AMD. [Internet; cited March 2021]. Available from:

4. National Eye Institute. Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration. [Internet; cited March 2021]. Available from:

5. Bright Focus Foundation. Macular Degeneration Prevention and Risk Factors. [Internet; cited March  2021]. Available from:

6. NHS Choices. Macular Degeneration. [Internet; cited March 2021 Available from: