What is macular degeneration?

The macula is an area at the back of your eye that you use for seeing fine details such as reading a book.

Macular degeneration (MD) covers a number of conditions which affect the macula. The conditions affect your ability to do certain tasks such as reading and watching television, but do not affect your ability to walk around as your side vision is not affected.

One of the most common symptoms of MD is noticing that straight lines appear wavy or there are patches missing from your vision. You may not notice this if it happens in one eye as your other eye will compensate, so it is important to regularly check your vision in each eye separately. You can do this by looking with each eye separately at the straight lines on a door frame or Venetian blind. If you notice the lines are distorted or there are missing patches, you should see your optometrist straight away.

The most common forms of MD happen more as you get older and are known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

I have heard that AMD can be ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ – is this right?

AMD can be classified as early or late. Early AMD is always dry AMD. This is when yellow deposits, known as drusen, build up behind the macula. Most people with early AMD have near normal vision. There is no treatment for early AMD.

A minority of people with early AMD can progress to late AMD. Late AMD my be ‘wet’ or ‘dry’.

The most common form of late AMD is the wet form. This happens when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow behind the macula and leak fluid. This pushes the macula away from its blood supply at the back of your eye and causes a rapid loss of vision. It is usually associated with you noticing distorted vision (straight lines become wavy, or you have a blank spot or smudge in the centre of your vision).

You can check this yourself by looking at straight lines such as door and window frames or Venetian blinds. Or, you can look at a grid of squares printed on paper, called an Amsler chart.

Your optometrist will be able to advise you on this. It is important to do this with each eye separately and while wearing your glasses (if you have glasses). Wet AMD can be treated, so if you notice these symptoms, you need to see your optometrist straight away.

Late dry AMD is called geographic atrophy and is rarer than late wet AMD. This is where you lose your vision because the retina at your macula thins but there is no leaking of blood vessels. There is no treatment for geographic atrophy.

More information about age-related macular degeneration:

Visit our AMD FAQ page or find more information at: