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February is AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month

What is AMD?

Age-related Macular Degeneration, or AMD, is named after the macula, that small area in the back of your eye that is responsible for what you see directly in front of you. To understand AMD, try thinking of your eye as a camera.

  • First, light enters the eye’s lens. Just like a camera, light passes through the front and ends up in the back at the retina.

  • Next the retina captures light to form images, much like what film does. The macula is the center of the retina and it is responsible for the clarity of the images.

  • Having Macular Degeneration is like using film that has been partially exposed just in the middle. It only affects central vision. Peripheral vision is not changed.

Wet vs. Dry AMD

AMD typically begins in the dry form. A very low percentage of patients end up with wet AMD.

Dry Macular Degeneration

Generally beginning around the age of 50, small yellow deposits may form under the macula. As these deposits increase, the actual macula thins. Smoking contributes greatly to the formation of these deposits.

How Does Dry Macular Degeneration Affect Vision?

You begin to see changes in the center of your vision. It can become wavy and fuzzy. This makes it harder to read or see well in poorly lit or dark spaces. Dry AMD progresses slowly but it can progress to the point of dark spots that can block your central vision.

Wet Macular Degeneration

Wet AMD is the more severe type of macular degeneration. Approximately 10% of those with dry AMD develop the wet version in one or both eyes. At this point, abnormal blood vessels begin to grow under the retina leaking blood and fluid. The resulting swelling causes permanent scarring of the macula.

How Does Wet Macular Degeneration Affect Vision?

Blurry or blind spots occur in the central vision along with distortions and loss of color vision. Wet AMD seems to occur suddenly and can worsen quickly.

Managing AMD

Since there is no known way to repair the macular and reverse degeneration, managing macular degeneration is about slowing the progression. For dry AMD, if you smoke, quit. Eat a diet geared toward eye health and exercise regularly. Wet AMD is usually treated with injections in the eye, but it can also be treated by lasers.

Blurry or blind spots occur in the central vision along with distortions and loss of color vision. Wet AMD seems to occur suddenly and can worsen quickly.

What Causes Macular Degeneration?

Many factors contribute to this condition, and it is impossible to predict exactly which played a role. We do know that some risk factors are beyond our control:

Age: In the U.S., 1 in 3 people age 80 or older has AMD.

Family History: Close relatives are 3 times more likely to develop AMD.

Gender: Women are more likely to suffer from macular degeneration simply due to the fact that women tend to live longer than men.

Skin Color: People with light skin are more likely to develop AMD than people with darker skin.

Eye Color: People with lighter-colored eyes can be at a higher risk.

There are other risk factors that are in our control:

Smoking: People who smoke or live with smokers are many times more likely to develop macular degeneration.

Sun Exposure: UV rays from the sun can increase the risk of AMD; wear sunglasses.

Diet: High-fat diets are linked to increased risk while dark leafy greens and eye vitamins may protect vision.

High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels: When these conditions are not managed, they can increase the risk of AMD and its progression.

Obesity: A significant increase in the risk of macular degeneration is associated with being overweight.

Inactivity: Lack of aerobic exercise may be linked to AMD; however, being active can slow its progression.

Medications: Malaria treatments and some anti-psychotic medication may increase the risk of macular degeneration.

Prevention is the key to managing eye health.


Patti Urban, CSA, is the CEO of Aging Care Planning Solutions, a geriatric care management practice that assists the elderly and their families with advance care planning as well as guidance for patients with life-limiting illnesses. She is also a Certified End of Life Doula, a Certified Senior Advisor, and former Executive Director of a memory-care assisted living community. She can be reached at

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