Macular Degeneration

What is macular degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most frequent cause of vision loss in people over age 50 in developed nations, occurring when the central part of your retina, called the macula, is damaged. AMD can cause central vision loss and thus an inability to see fine details, read, drive, or recognize faces, though peripheral (side) vision remains normal despite the development of AMD.


Schematic of Macula Schematic of Macula
Schematics of Macula




Who is at risk for macular degeneration?

The primary risk factors for AMD include:

  • A family history of AMD
  • Smoking
  • Being over the age of 50
  • A diet high in saturated fat (found in foods like meat, butter and cheese)
  • Obesity
  • Caucasian (white) race

Types of macular degeneration

There are essentially two basic forms of macular degeneration: the dry type and the wet type.

Dry AMD is quite common. About 80 percent of people who have macular degeneration have the dry form of the disease. With dry macular degeneration, the macula, which is responsible for fine vision, may become thinner with age and develop lipid deposits under the retina known as drusen.  Over a period of time, patients with dry AMD slowly lose vision. Currently, there is no effective therapy available to treat this form of the disease, although people with dry macular degeneration may benefit from certain nutritional supplements, vitamins and minerals. A large study found that people may slow dry AMD by taking the following daily:

  • Vitamin C (500 mg)
  • Vitamin E (400 IU)
  • Lutein (10 mg)
  • Zeaxanthin (2 mg)
  • Zinc (80 mg)
  • Copper (2 mg)
Wet AMD is less common but much more serious than the dry form. With wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula. These vessels may leak blood or fluid in the retina, causing scarring of the macula.  Vision loss can occur quickly and suddenly. Although there is no permanent cure for this form of AMD, there are a number of available treatment options that can significantly slow the progression of vision loss in the form of medications that are injected into the eye with a microsurgical needle with minimal discomfort and can block the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the macula.

Schedule an appointment with a Krieger Eye Institute retina specialist to discuss AMD treatments that may be right for you.

AMD and low vision

If you have lost significant vision from AMD, you can still learn how to make the most of your vision with special low vision tools. These can include different kinds of magnifying tools, handheld computers, electronic items and more. A low vision rehabilitation specialist can teach you how this works. They also can help you find many low vision support services and tools. The goal is to learn new ways to be as independent as possible.

Ask your ophthalmologist if you qualify for a low vision consultation.


For appointments and more information, call 410-601-2020.