Macular Degeneration

What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in people older than 55 years of age. Macular degeneration causes loss of the sharp, central vision needed for many daily tasks that involve looking straight at objects. People with AMD may find it difficult or impossible to drive, read, sew, or recognize faces. Many also have trouble distinguishing colors.

AMD results from deterioation of the central part of the retina, called the macula (MAK-yoo-luh). The retina is a tissue-thin membrane lining the back of the eye. We see objects because light passes through the eye and strikes the retina. Light-sensitive cells in the retina capture images from the outside world and relay them to the brain. The macula, which is about the size of a pencil eraser, relays images in the direct line of focus. People lose this central vision when macular cells degenerate, or stop working normally. The degeneration and vision loss usually occurs slowly, over a period of years. People with AMD retain peripheral vision, or side vision.

Facts about AMD

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of severe vision loss in people 60 years of age and over.
  • About 1.8 million Americans older than 65 years have been diagnosed with AMD. About one to two percent have severe vision loss.
  • An additional 7.3 million Americans are at high risk of vision loss from AMD, according to the National Eye Institute.
  • Older whites are most susceptible fo AMD. More than one in 10 white Americans 80 years or older have lost vision because of AMD.
  • Millions of others have milder AMD, but don’t know it.
  • Although a serious disease, AMD almost never causes total blindness. Most people with AMD continue to live independently, often using devices termed low-vision aids.
  • AMD will become a far more serious health problem as a higher percentage of Americans reach age 55. The National Eye Institute projects that by the year 2020, 2.9 million Americans will have advanced AMD with loss of vision.


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