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What is AMD?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK – affecting more than 600,000 people. However, most people with AMD can see well enough to get around.

The macula is an area at the back of your eye that is responsible for your central vision, most of your colour vision and making out fine detail. When the macula is damaged, it becomes harder to recognise faces, or to read or watch television. However, the edge of your vision (peripheral vision) is not normally affected.

Types of AMD

AMD can be described as being dry or wet. Dry AMD, is the most common type of AMD and occurs with age. It is the gradual degeneration of the retinal cells at the back of the eye leading to deposits on the retina called drusen. Dry AMD usually progresses slowly and people may not notice any change for many years. Most people with dry AMD have near normal vision. Currently, there is no treatment for dry AMD. However, there are some steps that you can take that may help reduce the risk of the condition from getting worse. 

Wet AMD is much less common and develops when abnormal blood vessels grown into the retina and leak. Wet AMD can cause sudden and rapid loss of central vision.

Who is affected by AMD?

The older we are the greater our risk of developing AMD. Around one in every 200 people has AMD at 60. However, by the age of 90 it affects one person in five. We are all living longer so the number of people affected is increasing. You are more at risk of developing AMD if you have a family history of the condition or already have it in one eye. 

What are the symptoms of AMD?

Here are some of the symptoms of AMD:

  • Straight lines may appear distorted or bent.

  • Spots or smudges may appear in your vision.
  • Bright light may be more uncomfortable.
  • Eyes having difficulty adapting when moving between light and dark rooms.
  • Colours look faded.
  • Objects may appear to change shape and size or even move, and words may disappear when you are reading.

Take a look at our Through my eyes video to see what vision can be like with AMD.

Check your vision

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. You can also use the Amsler chart to check your vision.


You can also download a larger version of the Amsler chart.
  • Wear the glasses you normally wear for reading, if any.
  • Hold the chart about 30cm (12 inches) in front of your face.
  • Cover each eye in turn. With the other eye look at the black dot in the middle of the chart:
    • Are all the lines straight?
    • Do you see any distortion or any broken or wavy lines?
    • Do you see any missing patches?

If you notice the lines are distorted or there are missing patches, you should see your optometrist straight away.

How can I stop AMD developing?

Here are the things you can do to reduce your risk of developing AMD:

  • Quit smoking. Smokers are four times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers. Smoking causes AMD to progress faster and makes treatment less effective.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and normal blood pressure.
  • Take regular exercise and eat a healthy diet with plenty of leafy, green vegetables.

How do you treat AMD?

There is currently no treatment available for dry AMD. Wet AMD can be treated if caught early. Treatment involves injecting drugs into the corner of your eye, to shrink and stop the growth of the abnormal blood vessels. Some people do not respond to the injections and may be offered a form of laser treatment instead.

AMD information and support

The Macular Society