Macular Degeneration

Also referred to as age-related macular degeneration or "AMD"

Macular degeneration causes vision loss and primarily affects people age 65 and older. The condition affects the macula, the sensitive part of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision. There are two major types of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), dry and wet. The dry type is more common, accounting for about 90% of cases. For most patients with macular degeneration, vision loss is gradual. There is no known cure, so treatment focuses on delaying the progression of the disease.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    • What causes macular degeneration?

      While the precise cause behind macular degeneration remains unknown, there are factors that increase a person’s risk for developing this eye condition. Some of these factors include advancing age, having a history of smoking or heart disease, and having a family history of macular degeneration.

    • What foods should be avoided with macular degeneration?

      Patients with macular degeneration should consume a healthy diet rich in vitamins C and E, carotenoids, and zinc. This includes fruits and vegetables that contain green, orange, and yellow pigments. Processed and fried foods, high-fat meats, and refined carbohydrates like white bread and rice should be avoided.

    • How long does it take to lose vision with macular degeneration?

      The timeline to vision loss is variable and depends on factors like the stage of the disease—early, intermediate, and late-stage—and the type of macular degeneration a patient has (dry versus wet). The good news is that since most people with macular degeneration have the dry form and do not reach the late-stage, they are able to maintain good vision their entire life.

    • How is macular degeneration prevented?

      There are several things you can do to help prevent macular degeneration, such as quitting smoking, adopting an antioxidant-rich diet, maintaining a normal blood pressure, and scheduling regular eye exams.

    • Is macular degeneration hereditary?

      There is a hereditary or genetic component to macular degeneration. This is supported by the fact that having a parent or sibling with macular degeneration doubles your risk for developing the disease compared to someone with no family history of macular degeneration.

    Key Terms

    Page Sources
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    1. Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 Research Group. Lutein + zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids for age-related macular degeneration. JAMA. 2013;309(19):2005. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.4997

    2. American Macular Degeneration Foundation. Dry vs wet age-related macular degeneration.

    3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Vision loss, central. Updated December 9, 2015.

    4. Pelletier A, Rojas-Roldan L, Coffin J. Vision loss in older adults. Am Fam Physician. 2016 Aug 1;94(3):219-226.

    Additional Reading