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Macular degeneration FAQs


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How common is macular degeneration?

One in seven Australians over the age of fifty has some evidence of macular degeneration,1 so it’s probably much more common than you realise.

Are some people more at risk from macular degeneration?

While anyone can develop macular degeneration, available data suggests that you have a higher risk if you smoke or have a family history of the condition.

It’s extremely important that you get your eyes checked regularly, particularly if you are in a high-risk group.

How do I know if I have macular degeneration?

Regular eye checks after the age of 50 are important. If you have difficulty reading, distinguishing faces, or start to see dark or empty patches in your central vision, get your eyes checked immediately.

There are also simple home tests that can indicate if you have any visual changes worth investigating.

Why don’t prescription glasses help with macular degeneration?

Prescription glasses can bend light to help it focus on the retina, but they can’t correct any damage in the retina itself.

Does macular degeneration affect children?

The forms of macular degeneration that affect younger people are very rare and usually caused by a specific gene defect.2 The most common form is Stargardt’s Disease, which may develop from 10 years of age (although vision loss may not occur until in your twenties or thirties).3

Knowing your family history in relation to eye diseases is extremely helpful.

What is the difference between wet and dry macular degeneration?

The advanced stage of macular degeneration can be divided into two types:

  1. Dry macular degeneration (also called atrophic) is the most common type. Here the macular tissue thins (atrophies) and eventually stops functioning properly. Vision loss is insidious and gradual.
  2. Wet macular degeneration (also called neovascular or exudative) affects about 10% of people with advanced AMD. Abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the macula and can leak fluid or bleed, causing the macula to swell. Vision loss is sudden and more noticeable than with dry AMD.

References and further reading

General resource

American Academy of Ophthalmology: Age-related macular degeneration

Scientific resource

Mitchell et al. Age-related macular degeneration. Lancet. 2018 Sep 29;392(10153):1147-1159. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31550-2.

  1. Keel et al. Prevalence of age-related macular degeneration in Australia: The Australian National Eye Health Survey. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2017 Nov 1;135(11):1242-1249. doi: 10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2017.4182. ↩︎

  2. Altschwager et al. Juvenile macular degeneration. Semin Pediatr Neurol. 2017 May; 24(2): 104–109. doi: 10.1016/j.spen.2017.05.005 ↩︎

  3. Tsang et al. Stargardt disease. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2018;1085:139-151. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-95046-4_27. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-95046-4_27 ↩︎

The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your ophthalmologist for specific medical advice.

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