How is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Diagnosed and Treated?

Age-related macular degeneration or AMD is very common and a leading cause of vision loss in people 50 years and older. With AMD, you lose your central vision—losing your ability to see fine details, whether you are looking at something close or far, but your peripheral vision will still remain normal. For instance, imagine looking at a clock with hands. If you have AMD, you might see the clock’s numbers, but not the hands.

Two Types of AMD

  1. Dry AMD: About 80% of people who have AMD have this form. As we age, the macula gets thinner and with Dry AMD, tiny clumps of protein called drusen grow and cause you to lose central vision. There is really no way to treat Dry AMD yet.
  2. Wet AMD: Less common, but can lose vision faster. With Wet AMD, new, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and can leak blood or other fluids causing scarring on the macula.

How AMD is Diagnosed

Many people don’t realize they have AMD until their vision is very blurry. This is why it is important to have regular visits to an ophthalmologist. He or she can check for early signs of AMD before you have any vision problems.

During the eye exam, your ophthalmologist may ask you to look at an Amsler grid. The grid helps you to notice any blurry, distorted, or blank spots in your field of vision. The ophthalmologist will also look inside your eye through a special lens to look for changes in the retina and macula.

An optical coherence tomography (OCTA), is a  machine that can be used to look closely at the retina and provide detail images of the retina and macula. Without using a dye, the OCTA can look at the blood vessels in and under the retina.

Or, you doctor may do a fluorescein anglography to see what is happening in your retina. Yellow dye (called fluorescein) is injected in a vein, usually your arm. The dye travels through your blood vessels and a special camera takes photos of the retina.  This will show if abnormal new blood vessels are growing under the retina.   

How AMD is Treated

Dry AMD Treatment:  As of now, there is no way to treat Dry AMD. However, certain people with lots of drusen or serious vision loss might benefit from taking a certain combination of AREDS nutritional supplements and/or an eye-health, nutrient-rich diet. Your ophthalmologist can tell you if supplements will benefit you.

Wet AMD Treatment:  There are medications called anti-VEGF drugs to treat wet AMD and help to reduce the number of abnormal blood vessels in your retina while helping slow any leaking from your blood vessels. The medicine is given through a slender needle in the eye.


AMD causes your vision to change over time. You may not notice these changes when they happen, so important to catch vision changes as soon as possible. Treating them early can help slow or stop further loss of sight.

For more details, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology website.