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Age-related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition affecting older people, and involves the loss of the person's central field of vision. The main risk factor is ageing. Other risk factors may include the use of tobacco, genetic tendencies, the degree of pigmentation (with light coloured eyes being at higher risk), arterial hypertension, ultraviolet rays, and consumption of a non-balanced diet. AMD is the primary cause of blindness in high income countries.


AMD occurs when the macular (or central) retina develops degenerative lesions. It is thought that circulatory insufficiency, with reduction in the blood flow to the macular area, also plays a part. In the early stages of the disease, lipid material accumulates in deposits underneath the retinal pigment epithelium. These deposits are known as drusen, and can be seen as pale yellow spots on the retina. The retinal pigment epithelium may become disturbed, with areas of hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation. In the later stages of the disease, the retinal pigment epithelium may degenerate completely. This loss can occur in small focal areas or can be widespread. In some cases, new blood vessels grow under the retinal pigment epithelium and occasionally into the subretinal space.

Haemorrhage can occur which often results in increased scarring of the retina. The early stages of the disease are in general asymptomatic. In the later stages, there may be considerable distortion within the central visual field leading to a complete loss of vision.

video animation picture of age-related macular degenration

Video animation of Age-related Macular Degeneration​

Source: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health


Globally, age-related macular degeneration ranks third as a cause of blindness after cataract and glaucoma. Approximately 5% of blindness globally is due to AMD. It is estimated that globally 196 million people will have AMD in 2020, increasing to 288 million in 2040.

At present, the available evidence points to the relevance of smoking prevention and cessation as inducive to preventing incidence of AMD. As for the cure of the disease, there is at present no definitive treatment. Palliative treatments, which are able to retard the progress of the disease, include the use of intravitreous drugs, lasers, dynamic phototherapy and sometimes surgery. The early beginning of rehabilitation for those with the disease includes psychological support, mobility and life skills to continue conducting a full life experience and face no limitations, as well as adaptation of the living and work places, and the use of special aids for reading and computer use.