Symptoms of macular degeneration 

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is not a painful condition. In fact, some people do not even realise there is a problem until their symptoms become more severe.

The main symptom of macular degeneration is blurring of your central vision. In particular, it results in:

  • loss of visual acuity – visual acuity is the ability to detect fine detail, for example when you read or drive 
  • loss of contrast sensitivity – contrast sensitivity is the ability to see less well-defined objects, such as faces, clearly against the background
  • distortion of central vision – images, writing or faces can become distorted in the centre (this is most commonly associated with wet AMD)

Your peripheral vision (outer vision) is not affected.

If you wear glasses, your central vision will still be blurred if you have macular degeneration.

Both eyes tend to be affected by AMD eventually, although you may only notice problems in one eye to begin with.

Dry age-related macular degeneration

If you have dry AMD, it may take 5-10 years before your symptoms significantly affect your daily life.

Sometimes, if only one of your eyes is affected, your healthy eye will compensate for any blurring or loss of vision. This means it will take longer before your symptoms become noticeable.

You may have dry AMD if you find that:

  • you need brighter light than normal when reading
  • it is difficult to read printed or written text (because it appears blurry)
  • colours appear less vibrant
  • you have difficulty recognising people's faces
  • your vision seems hazy, or less well defined

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your GP or optometrist (a healthcare professional trained to recognise signs of eye problems).

Read about diagnosing age-related macular degeneration.

Wet age-related macular degeneration

In most cases wet AMD develops in people who have had a previous history of dry AMD.

If you have wet AMD, any blurring in your central vision suddenly worsens.

You may also experience other symptoms, such as:

  • visual distortions – for example, straight lines may appear wavy or crooked
  • blind spots – which usually appear in the middle of your visual field and become larger the longer they are left untreated
  • hallucinations – seeing shapes, people and/or animals that are not really there

Seek immediate medical assistance if you experience any sudden changes in your vision such as those described above. It may be a sign you have wet AMD, which needs to be treated as soon as possible to help stop your vision getting worse.

If you require immediate medical attention, you will either need to book an emergency appointment with an optometrist or visit your local accident and emergency (A&E) department.

AMD can cause your vision to become hazy and blind spots to develop in the middle of your visual field 

Page last reviewed: 08/11/2013

Next review due: 08/11/2015