How does macular degeneration affect real-world visual ability and quality of life?

By Dr Devinder Chauhan

This recently published systematic review has confirmed the devastating impact of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) on quality of life (QoL) and visual ability. The highly prevalent condition, classified as a ‘priority eye disease’ by the World Health Organization, negatively affects a number of activities of daily living (ADLs) and the emotional impact can be severe.
AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in Australians aged 60 years and older. The macula, a small area in the retina at the back of the eye, is responsible for central vision and may start to deteriorate as a person ages. AMD is the most common type of macular problem, with two distinct stages:

  1. Early stage
    • Also called age-related maculopathy (ARM)
      • Characterised by the formation of yellow/white deposits (drusen) under the retina


  1. Advanced stage
    • Dry/atrophic AMD
      • The most common type of AMD
      • The macular tissue thins (atrophies) and eventually stops functioning properly
      • Vision loss is insidious and gradual
    • Wet/exudative/neovascular AMD
      • Around 10% of people with AMD have the wet form
      • Abnormal blood vessels grow, and can leak, beneath the retina
      • Vision loss is sudden and generally more noticeable than with dry AMD

Symptoms of AMD include blurred vision and loss or distortion of central vision. Peripheral vision remains unaffected. An Amsler Grid can help to detect AMD, but an ophthalmologist must confirm the diagnosis. Intravitreal injections can shrink the abnormal blood vessels in wet AMD to help prevent further vision loss for many patients – indeed, vision may improve for some people. No treatment is currently available for dry AMD, although vitamin therapy may lower the risk of progression to a more advanced stage in some cases…
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Source: Vision Eye Institute