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Age-related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration is age related ‘wear and tear’ damaging the central retina (macula) which causes reduced central vision.

What is age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?

The retina is the thin layer of light sensitive cells that line the inner surface of the back of your eye like a film in a camera onto which images are focused.  The macula is the very important small central area of the retina 1.5mm across that is responsible for central vision and seeing fine details.

There are two kinds of AMD:

  • ‘Dry’ – a gradual age-related build up of waste material under the retina which can cause gradual reduction in vision as the light sensitive cells and their support layers thin over time
  • ‘Wet’ – a sudden sight-threatening progression when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and leak blood/fluid. The boggy retina cannot function well and over time develops scar tissue which can lead to permanent visual loss.

What are the symptoms of age-related macular degeneration?

‘Dry’ AMD can result in painless blurred central vision with gradual progression in distortion and losing the ability to see fine details over time.

‘Wet’ AMD also affects your central sight but is more severe, with a sudden worsening in central vision, rapid worsening in distortion (lines appearing crooked/wavy) and well-defined blurry patch in the central field of view.

What causes age-related macular degeneration?

AMD is more common over the age of 60. Smoking, being overweight and a family history of AMD are all risk factors that can contribute to developing AMD.

How is age-related macular degeneration diagnosed?

After dilating your pupils with eyedrops in order to obtain a view of the back of your eye, an ophthalmologist will closely examine your retina with a slit-lamp microscope in clinic.

You will also have an OCT (optical coherence tomography) scan which takes a 3-dimensional cross-sectional image of the retina to determine the extent of swelling in the retina and help determine treatment.

Sometimes more specialised tests such as an angiogram (picture of the retina taken once contrast dye is injected into a vein) may be arranged, although quite often this is being replaced with newer scanning technology such as OCT-angiography.

How is age-related macular degeneration?

It is very important that you seek urgent treatment if you notice a sudden worsening of your vision with central distortion, especially if you have had wet AMD treatment in either eye in the past or have a pre-existing diagnosis of dry AMD and have noticed a sudden drop in your vision.

‘Dry’ AMD does not currently have any specific proven treatment, but new research trials are in progress all the time for this condition. High-dose vitamin capsules may be recommended by your ophthalmologist to reduce the risk of ‘dry’ AMD turning into ‘wet’ AMD.

‘Wet’ AMD requires urgent treatment with injections of Anti-VEGF (Vascular endothelial growth factor) medications into the eye such as Eylea, Lucentis or Avastin in order to stop abnormal blood vessels leaking, growing and bleeding under the retina.  90% of patients who receive this treatment promptly can maintain vision over time.  You will require at least three injections and may need ongoing injections (with treatment individualised to your condition/response) over time.  You will need regular follow-up to ensure that the treatment is working for you and to determine how frequently you need to have treatment/be monitored.

If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.

This content has been checked and approved by

Mr Jason Ho  ›

Mr Jason Ho is a consultant ophthalmologist and vitreoretinal surgeon at King Edward VII’s Hospital, with subspecialty interests in medical retina and vitreoretinal surgery.

Find your specialist in age-related macular degeneration at King Edward VII's Hospital

If you suspect you have age-related macular degeneration and you’re seeking an expert opinion, you can find the UK’s leading ophthalmology specialists here at King Edward VII’s Hospital. Our consultants are hand-picked for you, making it easy to access the best possible care.

Professor Michel Michaelides  ›
Special interests include:
Retinal disease (+ 3) more
Mr Saruban Pasu  ›
Special interests include:
Retinal laser (+ 4) more
Mr Jason Ho  ›
Special interests include:
Cataract surgery (+ 1) more

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