Complications of macular degeneration 

Being told you have age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can be frustrating and upsetting, as simple everyday tasks such as reading become more difficult.

Speak to your GP if macular degeneration is having a significant effect on your daily life. They should be able to put you in touch with local support groups, who can provide guidance and practical help.

Alternatively, you could call the Macular Society helpline on 0300 3030 111 (open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or the Royal National Institute of Blind People helpline on 0303 123 9999 (open Monday to Friday, 8.45am to 5.30pm).

Read more about help and support for blindness and vision loss.

Depression and anxiety

Having to cope with losing part of your vision and coming to terms with the loss of some of your independence can be difficult, and it can affect your mental health.

It's estimated around a third of people with AMD may have some form of depression or anxiety.

If you're struggling with the changes to your life, you should speak to your GP or ophthalmologist (eye specialist). They'll be able to discuss treatment options with you, such as counselling, or they can refer you to a mental health professional for further assessment.


You'll need to inform the DVLA and your insurance company if you're diagnosed with AMD and you drive, as the condition may affect your ability to drive.

If your eyesight is only slightly affected, it may still be safe for you to drive a vehicle. However, you'll probably need to have a series of sight tests to prove this. Central vision is very important for driving, and you won't be able to drive if you don't meet the standards set by the DVLA.

The GOV.UK website has more information and advice about macular degeneration and driving.

Visual hallucinations

Some people with macular degeneration experience visual hallucinations caused by their low vision. This is known as Charles Bonnet syndrome. It's estimated about 1 in 10 people with AMD experiences Charles Bonnet syndrome.

As AMD can prevent you from receiving the visual stimulation you're used to, your brain can sometimes compensate by creating fantasy images or using images stored in your memory. These are known as hallucinations.

The hallucinations you experience may include unusual patterns or shapes, animals, faces, or an entire scene. They can be either black and white or colour, and may last from a few minutes to several hours. They're usually pleasant images, although they may be unsettling and scary to experience.

Many people with Charles Bonnet syndrome don't tell their GP about their symptoms because they worry it may be a sign of a mental condition. However, the hallucinations experienced with this syndrome are usually the result of a problem with your vision and not a reflection of your mental state.

Speak to your GP if you experience any kind of visual hallucination. There are ways they can help you learn how to cope. The hallucinations will usually last for around 18 months, although they may last years for some people. 

If you would like to know more, the Macular Society has a leaflet about visual hallucinations (PDF, 153kb).

Page last reviewed: 24/08/2015

Next review due: 24/08/2017