What Are the Early Signs of Macular Degeneration?

Ask a Doctor

I recently turned 62, and for the last month or two, I’ve been seeing spots in my vision. My father had dry macular degeneration before he died, and I understand the disease is partially hereditary. How do I know if I’m getting macular degeneration? What are the early symptoms?

Doctor’s Response

In general, people older than 45 years should have a complete eye examination with an eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist) every one to two years to screen for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), as well as other eye conditions (such as cataracts and glaucoma) that become more common with age. People with a known family history of AMD should be checked yearly.

Once a person is diagnosed with AMD, more frequent follow-up examinations may be needed. Additionally, the eye doctor will ask patients with AMD to monitor their vision at home using a tool known as an Amsler grid. If changes in vision are detected using the grid, patients should promptly notify their ophthalmologist.
Timely treatment of early wet age-related macular degeneration can often prevent further vision loss.

The diagnosis of macular degeneration is becoming increasingly more common due to patient awareness, physician access, and improvements in tools for detection. Additionally, because of the increase in our elderly population, there has been an increase in the percentage of the population at risk for this condition. Macular degeneration is a formidable challenge to patients, their doctors, and our society as the costs for delivering state-of-the-art care increase.

Symptoms of AMD include the following:

  • Blurred or decreased central vision
  • Blind spots (scotomas), partial loss of vision
  • Distorted vision (metamorphopsia): Straight lines may appear wavy or bent.
  • Inability to see in dim light
  • Objects appearing suddenly smaller when viewed with one eye than with the other
  • AMD is not associated with redness of the eyes or pain.

Signs of AMD include the following:

There are no outwardly visible signs of AMD in the eye. An eye doctor will be able to see signs of AMD by examining the retina with special equipment. The signs may include irregular pigmentation, yellowish deposits, and fluid and/or blood in or under the retina.

For more information, read our full medical article on macular degeneration

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Medically reviewed by William Baer, MD, board-certified in ophthalmology


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