Wavy lines and loss of detail

Macular Degeneration


Macular degeneration (MD) or ARMD (Age Related Macular Degeneration) occurs when the tissue in the back of the eye responsible for fine detailed vision deteriorates. The health of the macula determines our ability to read, recognise faces, drive, watch television, use a computer, and perform any other task that requires us to see fine detail. This loss of detail only occurs in the central area of our visual field, and does not cause total blindness.

  • Wet Macular degeneration progresses over a very short period of time and usually leads to more serious vision loss.
  • Dry Macular degeneration, which is more common, progresses very slowly. Severity ranges from a total loss of central vision to only slight distortions.

Signs and Symptoms

Loss of vision from age-related macular degeneration is usually slow and painless. In rare cases, vision loss can be sudden. Early signs include shadowy areas in your central vision or unusually fuzzy or distorted vision. Other possible signs are:

  • Slow recovery of visual function after exposure to bright light.
  • Visual clarity drastically decreasing.
  • Trouble discerning colours.
  • A loss in contrast sensitivity.
  • Distorted vision, in which a grid of straight lines appears wavy and parts of the grid may appear blank. (You may first notice this when looking at things like miniblinds in their home or telephone poles while driving. There may also be central shadows or missing areas of vision).

Test yourself!

You can use an Amsler grid to map the progression of Macular Degeneration yourself. Visit your optometrist to get one or download one from here:

Follow the instructions and lock your focus on the central spot during the entire test.

Causes and Risks

  • Significant vision loss accompanying more advanced forms of AMD increases from fewer than 1 percent among people in their 60s to more than 15 percent among people in their 90s.
  • Obesity and inactivity.Those who perform vigorous activity at least three times weekly reduce their risk of developing advanced AMD
  • High blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Smoking – a major AMD risk factor.
  • Medicine side effects.


Macular degeneration by itself will not lead to total blindness. In almost all cases, some vision remains, mainly peripheral. There is as yet no outright cure but some treatments may delay its progression or even improve vision. Treatment depends on the stage and type.

Some studies have suggested a diet that includes fish which contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, may help prevent AMD or reduce the risk of its progression. Other studies have shown that supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin increase the density of pigments in the macula associated with protecting the eyes from AMD.

Low vision devices can help with mobility and specific visual tasks if you develop MD.

Your eyecare practitioner can advise you and show you how to monitor its progression. If you have been diagnosed with MD, you should have your eyes checked at least once a year.