Macular Degeneration

  • Medical Author:
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Quick GuideCommon Eye Problems and Infections

Common Eye Problems and Infections

What is dry age-related macular degeneration?

In dry AMD, the light sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down. With less of the macula functioning, central vision diminishes. Dry AMD often occurs in just one eye at first. Later, the other eye can be affected. The cause of dry AMD is unknown.

Dry AMD has three stages (early, intermediate, or advanced), all of which may occur in one or both eyes. These are defined by the amount and characteristics of the drusen that are present. People with early AMD have either several small drusen or a few medium-sized drusen. At this stage, there are no symptoms and no vision loss.

People with intermediate AMD have either many medium-sized drusen or one or more large drusen. Some people see a blurred spot in the center of their vision. More light may be needed for reading and other tasks.

In addition to drusen, people with advanced dry AMD have a breakdown of light-sensitive cells and supporting tissue in the central retinal area. This breakdown can cause a blurred spot in the center of your vision. Over time, the blurred spot may get bigger and darker, taking more of your central vision. You may have difficulty reading or recognizing faces until they are very close to you.

The dry form is much more common than the wet form. In dry AMD, there is no CNV (abnormal new blood vessel formation under the retina) and no fluid or blood leakage into the retina (retinal swelling or bleeding). More than 85% of all people with intermediate and advanced AMD combined have the dry form. However, if only advanced AMD is considered, about two-thirds of patients have the wet form.

Dry AMD can advance and cause vision loss without turning into wet AMD. Dry AMD can also rapidly transform into the wet form by the growth of new blood vessels.

What causes macular degeneration?

We do not know the precise cause for the development of ARMD. However, we do know that there are certain risk factors for the development of age-related macular degeneration.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/6/2016

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