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The facts about age related macular degeneration

Published on 5th January 2018

Over the past few months Visualase have received numerous enquiries from patients who suffer from macular degeneration requiring additional information. One of our ophthalmologists explain the facts and causes below:


“There are many forms of macular disease, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD). All macular diseases affect central vision and do not cause complete sight loss, there is always some peripheral vision remaining. Central vision becomes blurry or distorted and gaps or dark spots may appear in your vision. As AMD progresses, your ability to see clearly will change.”

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a painless eye condition that causes you to lose central vision, usually in both eyes. “Patients who have macular degeneration and who have damage as a result of having macular degeneration cannot have laser eye correction”.

According to the NHS, around 600,000 people are affected with AMD in the UK, mainly those who are over 50 – it is the most common cause of sight loss in the developed world. About half of people affected by AMD are registered as visually impaired, although it's important to remember that no matter how advanced your macular degeneration is, you will not lose all your sight.

Our ophthalmologist continues to explain that “central vision is what you see when you focus straight ahead.” In AMD, this vision becomes increasingly blurred, which means:

    • Reading becomes difficult
    • Colours appear less vibrant
    • People's faces are difficult to recognise 

This sight loss usually happens gradually over time, although it can sometimes be rapid.

AMD doesn't affect your peripheral vision (side vision), which means it will not cause complete blindness.  

Why it happens

Macular degeneration develops when the part of the eye responsible for central vision (the macula) is unable to function as effectively as it used to. There are two main types – dry AMD, which develops when the cells of the macula become damaged by a build-up of deposits called drusen, and wet AMD, which develops when abnormal blood vessels form underneath the macula and damage its cells.

There are two main treatment options for wet AMD are:

    • Anti-VEGF medication – to prevent the growth of new blood vessels in the eye
    • Laser surgery (not the type performed at Visualase) – to destroy abnormal blood vessels in the eye

These treatments are described in more detail at the NHS website


All eye surgical procedure carry a level of risk including not obtaining the desired outcome through varying levels of visual loss. Your eye surgeon will discuss the risks and benefits including ones specific to your circumstances at the time of your preoperative consultation.