Eye Specialists of Westchester

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Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of vision loss in the United States for people age 60 and over. The chance of getting the disease increases with age.

The macula is located in the center of the retina. It is a small and highly sensitive part of the retina responsible for detailed central vision. AMD is a chronic eye disease marked by deterioration of tissue in the part of your eye that is responsible for central vision. Macular degeneration varies widely in severity. For some people, the disease causes only slight distortion. In more advanced cases, it can lead to loss of central vision, making reading or driving impossible. In most cases, AMD does not cause total blindness because it usually does not affect the peripheral vision.

Age-related macular degeneration is classified as either wet (neovascular) or dry (non-neovascular). Dry age-related macular degeneration, characterized by the thinning of the tissues of the macula, is the most common type and typically results in a gradual loss of vision (usually over years or decades). About 10 percent of patients with age-related macular degeneration have the wet form, which is characterized by the formation of abnormal blood vessels. These abnormal blood vessels leak fluid and blood, causing a rapid and significant loss of central vision. Wet AMD is a serious condition that can lead to substantial vision loss even with aggressive treatment.

Risk Factors

The exact cause of age-related macular degeneration is unknown. Contributing risk factors include:

  • Age. In the United States, macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people age 60 and older.
  • Family History. If someone in your family had macular degeneration, your odds of developing macular degeneration are higher.
  • Race. Macular degeneration is more common in whites than it is in other groups, especially after age 75.
  • Sex. Women are more likely than men to develop macular degeneration.
  • Cigarette Smoking. Exposure to cigarette smoke doubles your risk of macular degeneration.
  • Obesity. Being severely overweight increases the chance that early or intermediate macular degeneration will progress to the more severe form of the disease.
  • Light-colored eyes. People with light colored eyes appear to be at greater risk than do those with darker eyes.


Dry macular degeneration usually develops gradually and painlessly. You may notice these vision changes:

  • The need for increasingly bright light when reading or doing close work
  • Increasing blurriness when reading
  • Difficulty recognizing faces
  • Gradual increase in the haziness of your overall vision
  • Blurred or blind spot in the center of your visual field combined with a profound drop in the sharpness of your central vision

AMD usually affects both eyes, but you may falter in one eye while the other eye remains fine for years. You may not notice any or much change because your good eye compensates for the weak one. Your vision and lifestyle will begin to be dramatically affected when this condition develops in both eyes.


There is no treatment available to reverse dry macular degeneration. Recent advances in laser surgery and medications have improved the ability of the ophthalmologist to stop the progression and visual deterioration of the disease in some patients. Research suggests that moderate or severe vision loss may be reduced by taking a high-dose formulation of vitamins and nutrients. Ask Dr. Scharf or Dr. Donev if this may be appropriate for you.