Dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a slow deterioration of the cells of the macula, as the retinal cells die off and are not renewed often over many years. The term dry does not mean the person has dry eyes, just that the condition is not wet AMD. The progression of dry AMD varies, but in most people it develops over many months or years. People often carry on as normal for some time.

What are the symptoms?

Macular disease affects people in different ways:

  • Gaps or dark spots (like a smudge on glasses) may appear in your vision, especially first thing in the morning. Objects in front of you might change shape, size or colour or seem to move or disappear.
  • Colours can fade.
  • You may find bright light glaring and uncomfortable or find it difficult to adapt when moving from dark to light environments.
  • Words might disappear when you are reading.
  • Straight lines such as door frames and lampposts may appear distorted or bent.

Diagnosing dry AMD

The optometrist at your local optician’s practice can test sight, prescribe glasses and check for eye disease. Some optometrists use photography or other imaging to detect early signs of macular degeneration. These might include Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scans which create cross-sectional images of the retina. You may be charged for these tests.

There is currently no treatment available for dry AMD so you might not be referred to hospital, unless confirmation of the diagnosis is required or the optometrist thinks you need a hospital low vision service. If your sight has worsened and you would like to be registered as sight impaired you will need a hospital appointment.

Treatment for dry AMD

There is no medical treatment for dry AMD but the Macular Society is funding research to find a cure. 

Around 10-15% of people with dry AMD go on to develop wet AMD. If you have dry AMD and notice a sudden change in your vision, it is important that you contact your optometrist, or hospital eye specialist, urgently. If you have AMD in one eye, the other eye may also be affected within a few years.

The Macular Society can help people cope with dry AMD. Call the Advice and Information Service on 0300 3030 111