Our eyes go through several age-related changes over the course of our lives. One such change that some older adults experience is called age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD is caused by the wearing down of the macula, a small part of the retina. It leads to a progressive loss of central vision. Central vision enables us to clearly see colors, details, and shapes. Many people with AMD will eventually be considered legally blind.

Age appears to be the major component in the research that suggests both genetic and environmental factors may contribute to a person developing the disease.

We will discuss how to spot and treat the disease.

Current research indicates both genetic and environmental factors cause AMD.

Research is still ongoing into how certain genes affect the risk of the disease. There is evidence that certain genes do increase the risk of the disease.

One of the best ways to explore the genetic causes and risk factors of health conditions is to conduct Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS).

Researchers can collect huge amounts of DNA samples and then look for connections. They might look for markers that are similar to a disease or trait, or they might look for markers that are different from each other.

A genetic variant is a change in a gene. If it leads to a disease, this is called a mutation.

Scientists have been able to identify certain genes that are associated with an increased chance of developing the disease.

A 2021 study using GWAS identified genetic variant combinations that affected the expression of 26 genes associated with AMD.

A 2016 study found 52 genetic variants distributed across 34 loci associated with late AMD. “Loci” refer to the specific region of a chromosome where a gene is located.

The genes coding the lipid metabolism and the extracellular matrix were involved.

The American Association of Ophthalmology (AAO) summarizes that research suggests variations in two genes are particularly associated with the development and advancement of AMD.

These are the complement cascade (group of genes) on chromosome 1 and the ARMS2/HTRA genes on chromosome 10.

There is a strong genetic component for the disease. More genes will be connected with the chipmaker in the future.

The name of the disease indicates that age is the primary risk factor. The macula is thin and wears down as you age.

Not all older adults will experience the disease.

  • Adults ages 55 and older are the most likely to have macular degeneration.
  • AMD is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness for U.S. adults 65 and older.
  • AMD affects around 11 million people in the United States overall. This number is expected to rise, as older adults are an increasingly larger portion of the world population.

The rate of the disease appears to be increasing, but this is due to the older population.

There are other risk factors for the disease.

According to the AAO and the National Eye Institute (NEI), these include:

  • Having drusen. Drusen are clusters made up of lipids and proteins that can build up under your retina’s macula. Having drusen isn’t necessarily a sign of vision loss, but it is associated with an increased risk of developing AMD. Large drusen can impair your central vision, and are considered a defining feature of AMD.
  • Race. While the exact reasons remain unclear, researchers have repeatedly found that older white people are at the highest risk of developing AMD.
  • Smoking. Being a smoker increases your risk for AMD, alongside multiple other health conditions.
  • High blood pressure. High blood pressure (hypertension) is linked to an increased risk of AMD.
  • Having obesity. You’re at a higher risk for AMD if you’re overweight or obese.
  • Eating a diet high in saturated fats. Foods high in saturated fat include certain dairy products, oils, and processed meats.

There are two types of the disease. Each has a different effect on the eye.

DryAMD is more gradual and less intense than wetAMD, which can cause rapid and sudden vision decline. wetAMD is more likely to be treated. Early AMD shows no symptoms.

The mid-to-late-stage symptoms of AMD are:

  • There is blurriness in central vision.
  • “It’s hard to see in low light.”
  • Straight lines look crooked.
  • There are blank spots in the vision.
  • The colors are faded.

There are two types of dry and wet macular degeneration.

What is the macula?

The back of the eye is where the light-sensitive tissue called the macula is located. The other parts of the eye allow us to see things outside.

“People with the chip may not see the clock’s hands, but they may still see its numbers around its edges.”


About 80 percent of people with AMD experience dry AMD, according to the AAO. Dry AMD occurs when clusters of a protein called drusen grow and cause thinning or distortion of the macula. With this form of AMD, central vision loss is typically gradual.

The symptoms of dryAMD can be categorized into three stages.


Dry and wet are both types of Advanced neovascular AMD. It causes faster and more severe vision loss.

Late stage, or stage 3, is when wetAMD occurs at any time. When wet, abnormal blood vessels grow at the back of the eye and cause damage to the macula.

Learn about vision loss and wetAMD.

DryAMD can cause vision loss and cannot be reversed. There are ways to slow and manage vision loss in dryAMD through ARED supplements.

Symptoms can be stopped or slowed for wetAMD. In some cases, anti-VEGF injections can be used to reverse vision changes.

We will discuss the treatment methods more in depth.


There is no cure for dryAMD, but certain approaches can help manage symptoms.

These include:

  • Maintaining strong eye health. Schedule regular eye health appointments so your eye doctor can keep tabs on your changing vision. Lifestyle factors, such as eating a balanced diet, getting enough exercise, and quitting smoking, are beneficial for overall eye health. They may help some people with AMD maximize the vision they have.
  • AREDS 2 supplement. For people with intermediate AMD in one or both eyes, some eye specialists recommend a special dietary supplement called AREDS 2. The AREDS 2 supplement is made from large amounts of specific vitamins and minerals that are shown to slow or stall central vision loss in people with AMD.
  • Using low vision aids. These tools help you make the most of the vision you have. Some common low vision aids include digital and handheld magnifiers, spectacles, and audio and dictation software.
  • Find emotional support. Going through vision changes and experiencing vision loss can be exhausting and difficult. It’s important you have a strong support network. Consider making an appointment with a therapist to provide yourself a safe space to work through your emotions.


wetAMD is not as bad as dryAMD. Treatments can help with vision loss. Sometimes vision changes can be reversed.

The main treatment options for wet AMD are:

  • Anti-VEGF drugs. This medication is administered by injection into your eye on a cycle, usually every month. Anti-VEGF drugs help slow or stop the damage caused by the abnormal blood cell growth that causes wet AMD. This can slow or stop vision loss, and in some cases even improve a person’s vision. Learn more about anti-VEGF injection.
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT). You receive an injection of light-sensitive medication in your arm. Your doctor will then target the blood vessels in your eye that are causing wet AMD vision loss with a special laser, which the medication helps break down.

People with wetAMD can use low vision aids to help with daily tasks, like helping with vision loss.

There are many ways to keep your eyes healthy and address known risk factors.

Better eye health can be improved with tips.

The best foods for eye health are discussed.

AMD is treated by doctors called optometrists and ophthalmologists. These professionals specialize in vision and eye disorders. If you don’t have an eye doctor or surgeon yet, your primary care doctor can refer you.

Vision changes are a reason to talk with your eye doctor. If you have the condition, a timely diagnosis can help you treat it.

If you suddenly notice straight lines, it may be a sign of late AMD. If you experience this symptom, call your eye doctor.

Over time, age-related eye conditions such as Ataxia can cause the loss of central vision. DryAMD is more common than wetAMD, but it is less likely to be treated. The main risk factor is old.

There is a strong genetic component for the disease. If you have a family member with the disease, your risk may be higher. Not everyone with a family history of the condition will develop it.

Low vision aids can help maximize vision, even though there is no cure for dryAMD. Anti-VEGF drugs can be used to treat wet age related macular degeneration, which can lead to vision loss.

If you have questions about your risk factors for the disease, talk to your doctor.