Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): Dry type – Medical News Today

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition that causes progressive vision loss. Dry AMD is a subtype, and it typically progresses more slowly than wet AMD.
The cause of dry AMD is damage to the light-sensitive cells on the macula, which is part of the retina at the back of the eye. This damage prevents the brain from understanding visual information, leading to a loss of central vision.
This article explores what dry AMD is, its symptoms, causes, and treatment.
Dry AMD is a disease of the macula, which is the part of the eye that sits near the center of the retina. This part of the eye allows for high resolution color vision. However, in dry AMD, the macula’s light-sensitive cells die, making it difficult to see clearly.
Often, blurry vision is the first sign of AMD. Eventually, a person experiences loss in their central field of vision. With dry AMD, these changes usually occur slowly. With wet AMD, leaky blood vessels develop under the macula, which speeds up the damage.
Regular and comprehensive eye exams can detect macular degeneration before it causes vision changes. With appropriate treatment, doctors can slow vision loss.
Doctors divide dry AMD into three stages: early, intermediate, and late. Each stage comes with different symptoms.
In the early stage, a person does not experience any AMD symptoms. By the intermediate stage, people may notice mild blurriness in their central vision or difficulty seeing in low light. However, even at this stage, not everyone has noticeable symptoms.
At the late stage, people can have a variety of symptoms, including:
If an individual notices that straight lines appear wavy, they should seek urgent medical attention from an eye doctor, as this is a warning sign of late AMD.
Doctors do not fully understand the causes of AMD, but they know that individuals over 55 years of age are more likely to develop the condition. People may have a higher risk of AMD if they:
To diagnose AMD, an ophthalmologist performs a comprehensive eye exam, including:
Doctors can detect the signs of AMD during a regular eye test. People can also see an ophthalmologist if they notice any changes in their vision.
There is no cure for AMD, but treatment can slow the progression of the disease. It is important to begin treatment as early as possible, as once AMD reaches the advanced stage, a doctor cannot prevent further vision impairment.
Early treatment for dry AMD involves making lifestyle changes to reduce damage to the retina and monitoring for sight changes that could indicate progression of the disease. Early treatment may involve:
A doctor may recommend that the individual use an Amsler grid at home. This is a tool that can help people tell if their symptoms are changing. If AMD is progressing, the lines of the grid will start to curve.
For intermediate dry AMD, the main treatment is a special dietary supplement known as the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies 2 (AREDS2). AREDS2 may be able to stop the progression from intermediate AMD to late AMD. It may also prevent the development of AMD in one eye if a person already has AMD in the other eye.
AREDS2 contains high amounts of antioxidants, vitamins, zinc, and copper. Due to this, it can cause side effects or interact with existing drugs or conditions a person has. A doctor can talk through whether AREDS2 is right for someone.
An option for late-stage dry AMD is an implantable miniature telescope (IMT). This involves surgeons placing a tiny telescope into one eye. The eye with the IMT then provides central vision, while the other provides peripheral vision. People who undergo this procedure need training to learn how to use the device.
In addition to treatments that target AMD itself, people with the condition sometimes have to adapt to changes in their vision, such as blurriness. The National Eye Institute refers to this as “low vision.”
The type of vision changes AMD causes can make it difficult to read, drive, and distinguish colors. However, there are ways to make tasks easier. People with minor vision loss may find it helpful to try:
Vision rehabilitation is a type of support people with more advanced vision loss can receive. It helps people learn how to live with the changes in their sight, such as by adapting their home or using visual aids. Ask an ophthalmologist about this type of support.
People can find resources on adjusting to vision loss on the American Foundation for the Blind website.
In around 10–15% of people with dry AMD, the condition progresses to the wet form. Wet AMD is more serious and can lead to severe vision loss, as the symptoms appear and worsen rapidly.
In addition to nutritional supplements, doctors have other treatment options to prevent further vision loss in wet AMD. These include drugs that a doctor can inject into the eye and photodynamic therapy, which is a form of laser treatment.
Learn more about laser surgery for wet AMD.
Dry AMD is a progressive disease that occurs when light-sensitive cells on the macula begin to die. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but early detection and treatment can delay vision loss. With treatment, the condition may stop progressing once it reaches the intermediate stage for some people.
Frequent eye checkups and monitoring are essential in managing dry AMD. It can also help to get support with adapting to visual changes, such as blurriness or loss of central vision. Speak with an ophthalmologist about any concerns.
Last medically reviewed on November 4, 2021