Five FAQs about Age-related macular degeneration, Macular Week, 2023

19 June 23

written by:

Sarah Kidner

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This week is Macular Week, so we have created five FAQs about Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

More information is available in our A to Z of sight loss conditions.

An anatomy of the eye labelled with various letters

1. What part of the eye is changed in AMD?

Age-related macular degeneration affects the middle part of your vision rather than the edges (peripheral vision). The cause is damage to the macula – a small but highly concentrated area of light-sensitive cells within the retina at the back of the eye.

The letter F shows the macula.

Read more about the anatomy of the eye.

AMD doesn’t cause complete blindness, but the loss of central vision can make it hard to conduct daily tasks such as reading, driving and seeing faces.

2. How common is AMD?

Age-related macular degeneration usually first affects people in their 50s and 60s.

Damage to the macula is the most common cause of permanent and severe sight loss in the UK, affecting around 600,000 people – this number is expected to more than double by 2050.

3. What are the signs and symptoms of AMD?

AMD affects the ability to see detail. Someone with AMD may have difficulty reading small print, even with their reading glasses on. The centre of vision may be slightly blurred or blank. Or, it may seem that there is a smudge across it.

4. What is the difference between wet and dry age-related macular degeneration?

There are two types of age-related macular degeneration – ‘dry’ and ‘wet’ AMD. Dry AMD tends to develop more slowly over time, while the wet form of the condition can cause rapid, severe sight loss. It is called 'wet' AMD as new blood vessels grow in the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye near the macula), which can leak blood or fluid. This scars the macula and leads to the loss of central vision.

Read more in our A to Z of eye conditions.

5. Is AMD hereditary?

The exact cause of AMD is unknown. It's been linked to smoking, high blood pressure, being overweight and having a family history of AMD. Although family history of AMD is a risk, more work must be done to understand the genetic factors predisposing someone to develop AMD.

Fight for Sight is funding various research projects into age-related macular degeneration to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Discover how you could help fund a breakthrough.