As you age, you may be more prone to certain conditions that affect your vision. One common condition is dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which affects your central eyesight.

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Your macula is a part of your eye and is responsible for your central vision. When you focus your eyes on a book, on your phone, or when driving, your macula helps you see the details straight in front of you.

If the cells on your macula begin to degrade, your central vision will be affected. Macular degeneration is usually age related.

There are two kinds of AMD: wet and dry. Dry AMD, which is far more common, is when the macula gradually gets thinner with age.

Read on to learn all about dry age-related macular degeneration, its causes, treatment, and outlook.

Dry AMD occurs when the photoreceptor and retinal pigmented epithelial cells on your macula begin to degrade.

Because your central vision depends on your macula, dry AMD directly affects your central vision. You might experience blurring or blank spots in your central vision.

Dry AMD happens in three stages:

  • Early stage dry AMD: The macula starts degenerating, but you don’t experience any symptoms.
  • Intermediate stage dry AMD: You might notice blurring in your central vision.
  • Late stage dry AMD: You’ll experience more noticeable symptoms.

It typically takes years for dry AMD to progress from the early stage to late stage AMD. It’s possible to have dry AMD in one or both eyes.

AMD doesn’t cause complete blindness. However, losing your central vision can make it difficult to read, drive, and do other activities.

You’re unlikely to experience any symptoms at the earliest stages of dry AMD. However, a doctor or healthcare professional will be able to see that your macula is degenerating during an eye exam.

You may not experience any symptoms in the intermediate stage either. However, mild blurriness in your central vision is possible.

Late stage dry AMD is more noticeable. You might experience the following symptoms:

  • a blurry or blank patch in your central vision that might grow over time
  • seeing straight lines as curvy or wavy
  • colors may look duller than usual
  • more difficulty seeing in low lighting

The American Macular Degeneration Foundation has created a video depicting what someone with AMD sees.

If you notice that straight lines begin to look curved or wavy, seek medical attention.

There are three stages of dry AMD.

Early stage dry AMD

At this stage, your macula begins to degenerate.

You’ll experience no symptoms, but a doctor can see the macular degeneration during an eye exam. They might notice large drusen, which are yellow spots, in the macula.

Intermediate stage dry AMD

At the intermediate stage, you might experience mild symptoms of macular degeneration.

These symptoms can include difficulty seeing in low light and some blurriness in your central vision. You might also begin to see straight lines as wavy.

Late stage dry AMD

Late stage dry AMD involves more noticeable vision loss.

These symptoms might include:

  • more difficulty seeing in low lighting
  • blurriness or blank patches in your central vision
  • colors appear duller than usual
  • seeing straight lines as curvy or wavy

A doctor might notice larger or more pronounced drusen when examining the affected eye(s).

Dry AMD is caused by the degradation of cells in the macula.

Macular degeneration can be caused by age or by environmental factors.

Wet AMD happens when abnormal blood vessels grow in the back of the eye and damage the macula, while dry AMD occurs when the cells in the macula begin to deteriorate and die.

Dry age-related macular degeneration differs from wet AMD in that dry AMD happens more slowly. However, if you have dry AMD, it can progress to wet AMD.

Dry AMD is also more common than wet AMD: About 85–90% of age-related macular degeneration diagnoses are dry AMD, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation.

As the name suggests, AMD is closely related to your age. Macular degeneration is considered age related when it occurs in people over age 55.

You might also have a higher risk of dry AMD if you:

  • have a family history of AMD
  • smoke cigarettes, vape nicotine, or use other tobacco products
  • are white
  • don’t have a balanced diet

Although you can’t change your genetics or age, you can make some lifestyle changes that support your eye health.

For example, you can consider a smoking cessation program if you do smoke. You can also speak with a doctor or other healthcare professional about improving your diet.

An ophthalmologist or optometrist can diagnose macular degeneration during an eye test.

During an eye exam, a healthcare professional might ask whether you’ve experienced any changes in your vision. They might ask you to look at an Amsler black-and-white grid with a dot in the middle. The Amsler grid will make it more noticeable if you have any blurry or blank spots in your vision.

To check for macular degeneration, you’ll need a dilated eye exam. A healthcare professional will put dilating eye drops in your eye and then look at your eye using a special lens.

Note that it takes a while for eye-dilating drops to wear off, so you might need to take a few hours off work and avoid driving after the appointment.

Eye dilating drops can cause light sensitivity, so bring a pair of good quality sunglasses to your appointment, if possible.

A healthcare professional might also check your retina using:

  • optical coherence tomography, which is where a machine scans your retina
  • fluorescein angiography, which involves injecting yellow dye into a vein — usually in your arm — and then photographing the retina as the dye reaches the vessels in your eye
  • optical coherence tomography angiography, which is like fluorescein angiography without the dye

If a healthcare professional doesn’t notice any changes in your macula but you’re at risk of developing AMD, they might advise you to make an appointment for another test in the near future.

Regularly monitoring your eyes for degeneration can help you understand and manage your diagnosis.

There’s no cure for dry AMD. However, some people might benefit from using a combination of supplements.

Two clinical trials, Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2), examined how to treat intermediate and late stage AMD. The study found that people with AMD were less likely to lose their central vision if they took a combination of vitamins and minerals daily, available in AREDS and AREDS2 formulas.

Nutrients included in the AREDS supplements are:

Nutrients included in the AREDS2 supplements are:

It’s best to speak with an ophthalmologist before trying these supplements. The studies suggested that the AREDS formula supplements only helped people with certain forms of dry AMD, so it’s possible they may not benefit you.

An ophthalmologist might also be able to suggest lifestyle changes — such as smoking cessation and a well-balanced diet — that might reduce the progression of dry AMD.

In some cases, you might be able to lower your risk of developing dry AMD.

To support your eye health, you can try to:

AMD doesn’t cause complete blindness. However, it can cause you to lose your central vision, which can affect your day-to-day life.

If you have a family history of AMD, visit an eye doctor regularly for checkups. They can review your medical history and advise on how often you should undergo an eye exam.

Here are some frequently asked questions about AMD.

Can dry AMD be treated?

There is no cure for dry AMD, but you can reduce your risk and slow the progression of the condition with lifestyle changes such as avoiding smoking, eating a well-balanced diet, and exercising regularly.

How long does it take to go blind with dry AMD?

AMD doesn’t cause complete blindness. However, it may take several years for eyesight to worsen progressively.

Which is more serious: dry or wet AMD?

Dry AMD progresses much more slowly than wet AMD. It also causes permanent damage, while wet AMD is severe with more successful treatments.

What are the symptoms of dry macular degeneration?

Symptoms include a blurry or blank patch in your central vision that grows over time, seeing straight lines as curvy or wavy, and dull colors.

It can take years for AMD to progress from the early stage to the late stage. You can also lower your risk of AMD, which is caused by age or by environmental factors.

Limiting or quitting smoking, vaping, or using tobacco products, getting regular exercise, and eating a well-balanced diet can prevent and slow the onset of AMD.