Geographic atrophy, the advanced stage of dry macular degeneration, can affect your central vision. Taking steps such as managing other chronic conditions and scheduling regular visits with your eye doctor can help prevent geographic atrophy.

Nearly 20 million Americans have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that affects the macula — the part of the retina that controls straight-ahead vision and helps you see fine details in objects in front of you.

AMD affects your central vision, which means you may notice blurriness and have trouble recognizing faces. You might need brighter light to see things, and straight lines can appear wavy. In the early stages, however, you may not notice any vision changes.

There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. Dry AMD, which accounts for 85–90% of AMD cases, occurs when the macula gets thinner with age. It can progress into wet AMD, a less common type of late-stage AMD that can cause vision loss more quickly.

Dry AMD can progress slowly over several years. Geographic atrophy is the advanced stage of dry AMD. About 1 million people in the United States have geographic atrophy, with 160,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

Geographic atrophy can cause blind spots in the central vision of one or both eyes. Your vision may not be as sharp as before, either. That’s why it’s important to do what you can to avoid developing geographic atrophy.

There are many different strategies you can use to help lower your chances of developing geographic atrophy.

Smoking is the largest modifiable risk factor for developing macular degeneration. It may increase the risk of macular degeneration by up to four times and is also associated with faster geographic atrophy progression.

If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Also, be mindful to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke whenever possible.

If you do smoke, consider making a plan to quit. Your doctor can prescribe smoking-cessation aids or medications. You can also visit for free resources.

If you have AMD, you may have other chronic health conditions that can increase your risk of geographic atrophy. Treating and managing these conditions can help lower your risk of progressing to this stage of AMD.

Health conditions that can be related to geographic atrophy include:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • chronic kidney disease

You can take steps to manage these health conditions by working with your doctor and making lifestyle changes, such as eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular exercise. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to help.

As the name suggests, macular degeneration causes cells in the macula to break down. You can help protect the macula by wearing yellow-tinted glasses. These can help you see contrasts and textures better, such as distinguishing pavement and stairs, so you can walk more safely.

You can also wear safety glasses to protect your eyes when you’re playing sports, doing handiwork around the house, gardening, or grilling or cooking with oils that can spatter.

Exercise can help improve related conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. Research also suggests that regular exercise can slow the progression of early macular degeneration into later stages.

As for how much exercise to get, the American Academy of Ophthalmology cites recommendations from major health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which suggest getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week.

AREDS 2 are supplements that may help slow the progression from intermediate AMD to advanced AMD. They contain a combination of:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin E
  • lutein
  • zeaxanthin
  • zinc oxide
  • copper oxide

Talk with your doctor about whether AREDS 2 supplements may be right for you.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology notes that eating foods rich in these vitamins may also help promote eye health and reduce the risk of macular degeneration. This may include:

  • colorful fruits
  • dark, leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, and broccoli
  • other vegetables, such as carrots and peppers
  • fatty fish such as salmon
  • beans, lentils, seeds, and nuts

In addition to helping reduce your risk of geographic atrophy, eating a well-balanced diet full of nutrient-rich foods can also help improve your overall health and other chronic health conditions you may have.

At a minimum, you should see your eye doctor at least once a year. Depending on your particular circumstances, your eye doctor will tell you how often to come in for check-ups so they can monitor your macular degeneration and detect any changes to your vision. Early treatment can help slow the progression of macular degeneration.

Your doctor will also likely talk with you about checking your vision at home with an Amsler grid to monitor for changes.

Currently, the treatment for dry macular degeneration usually involves taking an AREDS 2 supplement and monitoring for vision changes. Depending on how much your vision is impacted, you may also benefit from vision rehabilitation programs and low-vision devices.

Researchers are also working on potential new treatments for dry macular degeneration.

In 2023, the first treatments for geographic atrophy were approved. Pegcetacoplan (Syfovre) and avacincaptad pegol (Izervay) are medications injected directly into the eye to help slow the progression of geographic atrophy.

Work closely with your doctor to create a macular degeneration treatment and management plan. Combined with healthy lifestyle habits, these steps can help reduce your risk for geographic atrophy.

Geographic atrophy is the advanced stage of dry age-related macular degeneration. It can affect your central vision and make it difficult to see details in objects in front of you.

If you have AMD, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing geographic atrophy. These include eating a well-balanced diet, getting regular exercise, managing other health conditions, and seeing your eye doctor regularly.

If you develop geographic atrophy, there are new treatments that can help slow its progression.