Three stages of macular degeneration exist: early, intermediate, and late. Earlier stages of macular degeneration sometimes have no symptoms, but as it progresses, some blurriness or other vision changes may occur.

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Macular degeneration is a common cause of vision loss in older adults. While it doesn’t cause complete vision loss or blindness, losing central vision can make it hard to do everyday activities like work, read, drive, or watch television.

There are three stages of macular degeneration. This article explores each stage and how your symptoms may change with each stage.

Macular degeneration is an eye disease that causes vision loss in the center of your field of vision. This is due to damage to the part of the retina called the macula. When it’s age-related, it mostly occurs in adults ages 50 and older.

Macular degeneration can be a progressive disease, which means it gets worse over time. However, in some cases, it will not change from its initial presentation.

Types of macular degeneration

There are two types of age-related macular degeneration:

Dry: This type affects 80% of people with macular degeneration. With it, the center of the retina deteriorates, blurring one’s central vision.

Wet: This type is less common but more serious. It often leads to faster vision loss. With this type, the macular degeneration has progressed to the point where leaky blood vessels grow under the retina, which is dangerous for central vision loss.

Read more about macular degeneration.

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There are three stages of macular degeneration: early, intermediate, and late. Each stage has different and progressively worse symptoms.

Early

Early dry macular degeneration often does not present any symptoms, and it can be hard to diagnose.

In some cases, macular degeneration can progress beyond this early stage. That is why eye care professionals advise seeing your eye doctor regularly to diagnose potential issues and begin treatment as soon as possible.

Intermediate

Although some people with second-stage macular degeneration still show no symptoms, others may notice mild symptoms, including blurry central vision or trouble seeing at night or in low lighting.

Late

The last stage of macular degeneration is the most severe. It’s also known as late dry macular degeneration or geographic atrophy (GA).

Late-stage macular degeneration can be dangerous for driving. You may notice blurriness in your central vision that gets worse as time passes or have blank spots in your vision. You may notice that previously straight lines look crooked or wavy. You may also have difficulty with night vision, and your interpretation of color may also worsen.

Macular degeneration at this stage cannot be reversed. However, a retinal specialist can offer effective therapies to preserve your eyesight as much as possible.

Wet macular degeneration presents at this advanced stage.

Can macular degeneration cause blindness?

Macular degeneration does not cause total blindness, but its effects can significantly affect a person’s day-to-day life.

Dry macular degeneration symptoms develop gradually over time and are usually painless. Symptoms may include:

  • reduced central vision in the affected eye
  • trouble with night vision; you may need a bright light to see well
  • blurriness of printed words

These symptoms may appear mild at first, such as mild blurriness or difficulty with sight only in low light. However, as the condition progresses, these can become more pronounced.

If you have wet macular degeneration, you may see blank spots and straight lines appear wavy or crooked. As this progresses, these spots and lines can grow in size and opacity.

Yes, it is possible to have macular degeneration in any stage in one eye and not the other. Or both eyes may be in different stages of macular degeneration simultaneously.

However, having late-stage macular degeneration or wet macular degeneration in one eye does put you at higher risk of developing late-stage dry macular degeneration or wet macular degeneration in the other eye.

Although rare, it’s possible to have both dry and wet macular degeneration in the same eye. You may also have dry macular degeneration in one eye and wet macular degeneration in the other.

Treatments may vary depending on the severity and progression of your macular degeneration.

There is no known cure for dry macular degeneration nor known treatments to reverse the effects on vision.

However, to help slow down the early stages of dry macular degeneration, eye health experts may suggest AREDS2 supplements. These contain a combination of the following:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin E
  • beta carotene
  • copper
  • lutein
  • zeaxanthin
  • zinc

Treating macular degeneration

Read more about treating macular degeneration, including what options may exist for the different stages of this eye condition.

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Macular degeneration is an extremely common condition in older adults and is one of the leading causes of vision loss in the United States. There are three stages of macular degeneration: early, intermediate, and late (geographic atrophy, or GA).

The earlier stages of macular degeneration sometimes have no symptoms at all. However, as the disease progresses, blurry vision, blank spots, trouble with night vision, and other vision changes may occur.