People who develop macular degeneration often begin experiencing symptoms after 50 years old, but they can happen earlier or later depending on conditions and risk factors.
Macular degeneration is an eye condition that mostly affects older adults. It causes blurring in the central area of vision and can eventually lead to blindness.
Although it’s possible to develop macular degeneration at a younger age, it’s most commonly seen in people 50 years and older.
This article will explore the age at which macular degeneration usually begins, as well as why this condition typically develops with age and how quickly it can progress.
Macular degeneration can happen in children, but it’s most common in adults who are age 50 and older.
At a glance: Macular degeneration
Macular degeneration is an eye condition that usually develops as a result of age and genetics. It causes you to lose vision in the central part of your eye. This vision loss is the result of damage to the macula, a part of the retina.
You can learn more about the stages of macular degeneration here.
When macular degeneration occurs in children, it’s called juvenile macular degeneration or Stargardt macular degeneration. This rare condition is a genetic disease that causes progressive vision loss, but it’s pretty uncommon, occurring in fewer than 1 in 10,000 children.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the form of the disease most people know as macular degeneration, and it’s the leading cause of blindness in adults 60 years and older.
AMD commonly begins after age 50 and becomes more common with each passing year. As many as
This prevalence of the condition increases to between
Vision naturally decreases with age for many people.
While the risk of developing macular degeneration can increase with age and certain risk factors, it usually begins around age 55.
It’s possible, however, for macular degeneration to develop over a period of time without real noticeable symptoms.
Early warning signs of macular degeneration
You can read more in this Healthline article about the early warning signs of macular degeneration and what you can expect if these signs develop.
Macular degeneration risk increases with age because, like many of the body’s tissues, the tissues in our eyes break down over time.
Macular degeneration has two forms: wet and dry.
- Dry age-related macular degeneration is the most common, making up about 80% of total macular degeneration cases. This form of AMD happens when the macula, a part of your retina, becomes thinner with age. As the macula thins, tiny clumps of protein called drusen form and create obstructions and distorted vision in your central field of vision.
- Wet age-related macular degeneration is the other type of macular degeneration and is less related to the breakdown of the macula with age. In this form of macular degeneration, new blood vessels form under the retina. These blood vessels can leak blood and other fluids, scarring the macula and destroying your central vision.
Causes of macular degeneration and risk factors
More than 35 genetic variations have been linked to the development of macular degeneration, but age and lifestyle also play a role. Other risk factors like cigarette smoking or a high cholesterol diet can increase your chances, too.
You can read more about your risk of developing macular degeneration here.
Dry age-related macular degeneration can develop slowly over time. You may not even realize it’s happening outside of increasingly blurred vision.
The wet form of age-related macular degeneration can develop more noticeably, and much more suddenly. With this form of macular degeneration, blood or other fluids from blood vessels that form where they don’t belong cause scarring that can interfere with your vision.
Wet AMD can affect your vision in as quickly as a few weeks. Once the new vessels that can lead to vision loss form in one eye, you have between a 7% and 87% chance of developing it in your other eye within 5 years.
Once the new vessels that can lead to vision loss form in one eye, you may develop it in your other eye.
According to this 2019 research, you have about a 21% chance of developing it in your other eye within 5 years.
Some types of macular degeneration can begin early, but dry age-related macular degeneration is the most common form of this disease.
The risk of developing age-related macular degeneration generally increases with age, with most people noticing symptoms around age 55 and older.
If you are getting older and noticing vision changes, or you have risk factors that could increase your chances of developing macular degeneration, consult your healthcare team or eye doctor about testing and treatment.