Macular Degeneration

Basic Facts

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a disease that damages part of your retina. The retina is the layer of cells, nerves, and blood vessels behind your eyes that sends images to your brain so you can see.

At the center of each retina is a small area called the macula. While the rest of the retina provides you with side vision (peripheral vision), the macula provides central vision, so you can see what is straight in front of you. Your macula also enables you to see details. You use your macula when you read, recognize a face, see road signs or traffic signals while driving a car, or watch television or a movie. ARMD damages your macula.

ARMD is the leading cause of permanent central vision loss in people 65 and older in developed countries. As the name suggests, ARMD increases with age. About 30% of those older than 75 have ARMD.  Age-related macular degeneration usually doesn’t affect your peripheral vision.

There are two types of ARMD:


Dry age-related macular degeneration is the most common type of ARMD. 80 to 90 percent of people with ARMD have the dry type. With dry ARMD, fatty yellow deposits called drusen develop under the retina. This causes the macula to become thinner and begin to lose function. If you have dry ARMD, you may see a dark, blurry spot, or a blank spot in the center of your vision. Vision loss due to dry ARMD is usually slow and gradual.

Dry ARMD can progress to wet ARMD, which can cause rapid and more extensive damage and vision loss. You should be under the care of an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) if you are diagnosed with either form of ARMD.

If you have dry ARMD, you should monitor your central vision by using a special chart called an “Amsler grid.” If any part of the grid appears wavy, blurry, or dark—or if your vision is suddenly distorted—you should contact your ophthalmologist immediately. These changes could be a sign that you have developed wet ARMD.


10 to 20 percent of people with ARMD have wet ARMD. With this type of macular degeneration, two changes occur. The first is that fatty yellow deposits called drusen accumulate under the retina. The second is that abnormal blood vessels begin to grow under the retina. These abnormal blood vessels often begin to leak, causing damage to the retina. Wet ARMD can cause rapid and severe vision loss and central visual blindness. Early diagnosis is extremely important in order to determine whether treatment can prevent irreversible loss of vision.


Last Updated August 2020