On this page

What is it? 

Age-related macular degeneration is also known as AMD or macular degeneration. It's the leading cause of vision loss in Australians over 50 years old.

Simulation of how AMD affects blurring of central vision
Simulation of how AMD affects blurring of central vision

  • A gradual or sudden decline in the ability to see objects clearly
  • Difficulty reading – that is not improved with new glasses
  • Distorted vision in the central field and difficulty seeing people’s faces clearly
  • Dimming of colour vision
  • Needing more light to see well
  • Difficulty driving or adapting to light levels at night
  • Visual hallucinations - a condition known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome and can be a side effect of AMD.

If you are concerned about a reduction in vision, light sensitivity or visual distortion, see an optometrist, ophthalmologist or your GP as soon as you can. AMD has three stages – early, intermediate and late. During the early and intermediate stages, vision may not be significantly affected. Late-stage AMD is when vision loss can be more severe. There are two types of late-stage AMD – dry and wet. Dry or atrophic AMD occurs when the cells in your retina die or atrophy over time, with a gradual loss of central vision. Wet or neovascular AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina. Bleeding can occur with a sudden loss of central vision. Late-stage wet AMD is the most serious and fastest-acting form of the condition. It can result in severe sight loss over a short period of time if not detected and treated early by an eye specialist. Early diagnosis of AMD can help so that it can be carefully managed and monitored. Dry AMD can also turn wet, so make sure to get your vision checked if you experience any sudden changes and see your eye specialist within one week if you suspect wet AMD.

There is currently no cure for age-related macular degeneration, but there is a lot of research underway and many known risk factors. These include smoking, a family history of AMD and aging (particularly over the age of 75). You can minimise your risk by having regular eye health checks and getting support from your GP to stop smoking. You can also eat a healthy diet rich in antioxidants such as leafy green vegetables, and fish and nuts. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also important. You can also discuss supplements with your GP or eye specialist.

For late-stage wet AMD there is an effective treatment that can slow its effects. Injections of a protein known as anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) can help to slow the spread of damaged blood vessels. These are injections into the vitreous fluid in the eye, and are performed under local anaesthetic and usually involve minimal discomfort due to the small size of the needle.

It is important to attend all of your appointments with your eye specialist and follow their advice to help maintain your vision. The desired outcome is to prevent the growth of new abnormal blood vessels in the retina. Vision Australia can provide strategies and low vision aids to help you maximise your vision. These can include exploring magnifying aids, minimising glare, using correct lighting strategies, tactile markers and other daily living aids.

How it can affect your life

AMD can cause problems with close work like reading, writing and watching TV. It can affect safe navigation and even seeing other people’s faces. 

AMD can also make it difficult to read things like menus and price tags. This can make going out for meals and going shopping challenging. 

Being diagnosed with an eye condition doesn’t mean you need to stop living life on your terms. That’s where Vision Australia can help. We’ll work with you, providing support and products to help you take the next steps with confidence.

Download a guide

Age related macular degeneration guide

Fact sheet summary to print or download.

Real stories