What You Should Know About Age-Related Macular Degeneration

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Approximately 2.1 million people nationwide had age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in 2010, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI). By 2050, that number will more than double to a whopping 5.4 million. With February being AMD and Low Vision Awareness Month, it’s an appropriate time to point a spotlight on the leading cause of blindness among older adults.

macular degeneration

What is AMD?

AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over age 50. This eye disease occurs when there are changes to the macula, a small portion of the retina that is located on the inside back layer of the eye.

AMD is a loss of central vision, and can occur in two forms: a “dry” (atrophic) and a “wet” (exudative) form. With dry AMD, the tissue of the macula gradually becomes thin and stops working properly. Wet AMD occurs when fluids leak from newly formed blood vessels under the macula. This leakage blurs central vision. While wet AMD is less common, it progresses much faster and vision loss can be more rapid and severe.

Signs of AMD can often go unnoticed. However, according to the American Optometric Association, some indicators do exist, such as gradual inability to see objects, distorted object shapes, straight lines looking wavy or crooked, a loss of color vision, or a dark or empty area in the center of vision.

Who is at risk?

According to the NEI, there are several risk factors for AMD:

  • Age: The disease is most likely to occur after age 60.
  • Smoking: Research shows that smoking can double the risk of AMD.
  • Race: AMD is more common among Caucasians.
  • Family history: People with a family history of AMD are at higher risk.

What can you do?

There are several ways to help prevent AMD:

  • Get regular comprehensive eye exams. Eye doctors generally recommend everyone be seen once a year to maintain your healthiest possible vision and to look for signs of more serious diseases. For people over 65, it’s very important to be consistent with this routine because there are no early warning signs for AMD.
  • Quit smoking. Easier said than done, right? Well, the American Macular Degeneration Foundation offers some pretty good reasons you might want to consider it.
  • Know your family’s eye history. Ask around and be prepared to tell your eye doctor who in your family has or had AMD.
  • Diet and exercise. Eating a healthy diet and getting exercise have been shown to protect against AMD.
  • Test your vision with an Amsler grid. Call your eye doctor right away if you notice any blurry/wavy lines or dark/blank spots.

Treating AMD

If you already have AMD, there are various therapies that may help slow or prevent further vision loss from more advanced stages of the disease. It’s important to note that to date, there are no readily available cures for AMD and therapies can’t reverse damage that has already been done.

Therapies include regular injections and laser surgeries. Further research and testing is being done to see if certain nutritional supplements such as: vitamin C and E, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin, could help protect or slow the progression of the disease. However, the treatments are not a cure for AMD and the condition may still persist even with the above therapies.

If you’re at risk or concerned you have AMD, schedule your comprehensive eye exam with a local VSP Network doctor.


  • Gwyn Alcock says:

    I really wanted to read this article, but your website is so mobile-unfriendly that I just gave up. I wanted to send a comment to your Webmaster, but there is no Contact info. I wanted to share a screenshot to show what it was like for me, but even the VSP dot com Contact page doesn’t have a way for me to do that. I won’t share the page or recommend it, because I won’t put my friends through this annoyance. I really regret this situation. Please fix this. Why have a blog if it can’t be read?
    Even this window for typing only allows me to see two lines at a time. Blech.

    • Patrick I. says:

      Gwyn, I’m sorry for your experience. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts to help us create a better user experience. We’ll be passing along your feedback.
      Thanks again,
      Patrick, VSP

    • Laurel Gallegos says:

      I have no problem reading it.

  • m mickle says:

    Something you do not cover in this informative piece is that they currently DO have treatment for “wet” MD – our mother developed this, but unfortunately the first person she sought help from missed it and by the time they found it (she went to a different doctor in the group) some damage was done. However, since then she goes 4x a year and has imaging, exams, etc and then receives treatments (shots in the eye.) That eye was kept stable, little to no further degradation, and the other eye is being treated to prevent damage as long as possible.
    Your information implies that vision loss is inevitable, seems like sooner rather than later. She has been getting these treatments for YEARS!

  • I am 63 and I have macular degeneration I had cataracts removed in both my eyes I have to see my eye doctor every year it runs in my family just like cancer it don’t just my input about losing my eye sight

  • Michael Paolucci says:

    Unfortunately this article does not site the most critical aspects of AMD. What treatment
    is available??? How effective is the treatment??

    • Patrick I. says:


      We cannot offer medical advice; we leave that to the experts. Your eye doctor should be able to determine the best course of action for tackling the disease. -Patrick, VSP

  • Karen Robison says:

    My mother had AMD and received the Avastin injections for years before she passed away. So far I am OK and regularly get my eye exams. Do you think that taking the AREDS vitamins helps to prevent this or not? I do take them but not sure if it makes any difference. Thank you.

  • Sue says:

    Has there been ANY progress toward finding a cure for AMD??? I was diagnosed with the condition @ the age of 38 (I am now 53). I have been taking Systane I-Caps/Once Daily for several years. I want to know if I have to continue to keep my fingers crossed every time I take one, or if there is actually some real help on the horizon. According to this article, there is a pronounced need for a acure for this condition. I come from a family in which each generation of the women is diagnosed with AMD, and, each successive generation is diagnosed at an earlier age (which is why I was diagnosed with it at age 38).

  • Helen says:

    Thanks. And while your at it, ask why your site can’t be accessed from AOL.

  • Leslie says:

    I will be having surgery tomorrow for this. It is an odd visual, almost as if you were looking through a fun house mirror. Working as an accountant, panic set in quickly. I was very surprised when I was told it was “age related”. Also, having an HMO, seems there was a total of 4 doctors I needed exams or referrals from or to, including the surgeon. First my eye doctor (who capably diagnosed the problem), then the primary care doctor who was loathe to submit a referral request on my behalf and took 9 days just to get the referral request submitted, at my constant prompting, the specialist who was just wonderful and realized the urgency of the situation, getting me scheduled for surgery within 3 days of the evaluation. And the surgeon who I will meet tomorrow. If you are over 50, still working and have the choice between an HMO and PPO, get the PPO. No point in working for your benefits if they do not benefit you. I paid $100.00 out of pocket just in exams and office visit co-pays to get this far. And I live in a major city (Chicago). I can’t help my race or age and I quit smoking 35 years ago after smoking for only 5 or 6 years. If you smoke, quit now, if you can. Help is available.

    • Kimberly says:

      Leslie, What surgery are you talking of? Unfortunately, this has hit every generation of my family. I was diagnosed in one eye at age 53 and the other eye at 56. I have never smoked and the only thing my eye doctor told me to do was to take AREDS. I do work in IT and am looking at a computer all day, and it is a struggle on some days. There was never any mention of surgery.

    • Bryan Adcock says:

      Leslie ~ Use the 20-20-20 rule. 20 seconds computer, 20 seconds look far off in a distance and 20 seconds blinking.

  • Tom says:

    I have read that taking Lutein as a supplement helps prevent AMD. Is that true?

    • Bob Sittinger says:

      My eye DR said the same thing. He recommends 10 mg per day. Ocuvite 50+ has 5, so you need to take 2 pills/day. Expensive. I found a supplement called Trunature that has 25mg. I have macroD in my right eye only. Yes, weird

  • Maria Copetas says:

    Had no trouble reading this great article on my iPhone. Thank you for the information!

  • John Slovak says:

    What’s the cure(s?)

    • Patrick I. says:


      Thanks for your note. Your eye doctor will have the best options for each individual on how to tackle the disease. -Patrick, VSP

  • lyde says:

    You might have mentioned Preservision or Occuvite. My doctor saw some indications of possible AMD (he didn’t say which) and told me to start taking Preservision. There is no history of AMD in my family that I know of.

  • Linda says:

    I have an IPhone and can read the article just fine.

  • […] February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Low Vision Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time read about the risk factors and get ideas to protect your long-term eye health and vision. […]

  • Teri says:

    Your article is helpful in understanding what it causes and prevention, but does not mention any cures or steps to help those already diagnosed with it. My father has this and I’d like to know what he can do to improve his condition or slow progression.
    Thank you.

    • Patrick I. says:


      Thank you for your feedback. We cannot offer medical advice, so we heavily encourage all of our members to see their eye doctors with questions just like yours. They should have the answers you need. Thanks! -Patrick, VSP

  • Cheryl Allen says:

    I have seen an optometrist every 2 years as my vsp insurance allows for the last 10 years. On my very recent 2 year visit, I had been having blurry vision and the right eye was seeing things all contorted. I was diagnosed with a macular hole and am scheduled for surgery.
    Im thinking that if I had been able to visit my Dr. on a YEARLY basis, perhaps this hole could have been prevented.

  • Glenn Gordon says:

    I was diagnosed with “wet” AMD 8-10 years ago in my right eye. Got a series of three shots in that eye, have been taking PreserVision AREDs ever since twice daily. Recently had cataract surgery in both eyes which helped my overall vision greatly. My AMD has been diagnosed as “stable” for several years now. I see my ophthalmologist twice yearly as well as my optometrist twice yearly. The disease has NOT been in my family history but my younger sister has the beginning symptoms. I’m 75 now & she’s 68 so we “old folks” are definitely the targets. My prayers to all inflicted.

  • Nita McClelland says:

    Be very cautious about advice you receive. I have had macular degeneration in one eye.. with no progression.. for about 10 years. Five years ago I saw a supposedly reputable surgeon who lectures all over the U.S. He said that if I didn’t receive surgery within six months I would be totally blind. Because of the requirements of the surgery (which does have risks) and my living situation I was unable to have surgery. As of today my sight has not changed. If you can hold out, there is very promising stem cell research for macular deneration being conducted in Japan, but we might not benefit here for ten more years.

  • sharon lynn says:

    This disease has popped up in my family so I will stay in touch with comments Thank you

  • Gail Schettenhelm says:

    I eat a ton of greens, other vegetables, and fruits to make sure I’m getting every kind of micronutrient, i. e. not missing any of them.

  • […] Macular Degeneration is an eye disease that occurs when there are changes to the macula, a small portion of the retina that is located on the inside back layer of the eye. In addition, glaucoma is a disease that affects the nerves in the eye, and once the damage is done it cannot be reversed. Often with eye disease, you can have reduced contrast sensitivities or reduced vision. […]

  • Bryan Adcock says:

    I had never heard of this eye disorder before, till about 6-7 months ago. I was diagnosed with both wet and dry. I have no idea how long I’ve had it, cause I hadn’t been to a eye doctor in several years. Something kept telling me to go and get my eyes checked and I ignored it. I wear both glasses and contacts, but right now I’m only wearing the glasses. So I go to this eye doctor and he tells me I have cataracts and sends me to this specialist which said I also have AMD. I believe that a eye doctor should tell their patients about certain eye diseases, or give them literature about them. And maybe the NEI should provide the doctors with literature on eye diseases. I’ve never heard of it before, till the one specialist said I had it. So now I’m getting shots in my eyes to dry up the “Wet” MD, and I don’t know what really happens from there. But this blog was very helpful with information about it. By the way, I’m just putting this out there so that others know what I’m going through. This is my son’s eye insurance, of which I MADE him go and get his eyes checked. I’m in my early 60’s and he is in his early 30’s. Thanks for listening and Prayers to anyone that have this horrible eye disease. Take care and HUGS !!!

  • Julie DeMuro says:

    My eye doctor found I had AMD 2 years ago but only told me last year. I was 57 when he found it. Don’t know if it the wet or dry kind. I have blurry vision on and off and sometimes have to keep blinking for it to go away. Seems like my sight gets dim sometimes. I am kind of upset that my eye doctor did not tell me when he found it. I do take a multi vitamin daily. Is that enough of a vitamin to take and is there really anything I can do to stop this from progressing?

    • Angelina F. says:

      Hi Julie,
      We cannot offer medical advice. For follow-up questions from your exam it would be best to contact your eye doctor directly.
      -Angelina F., VSP

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