Back to Back Issues Page
How Fast Does Macular Degeneration Progress? Will I Go Blind?
May 30, 2019

How Fast Does Macular Degeneration Progress? Will I Go Blind?

I was recently reading an article on the web regarding macular degeneration and it stated that age related macular degeneration (AMD) "was the leading cause of blindness in the senior population." If it had said legal blindness, that would be understandable, but to state that it results in blindness is inaccurate.

The macula, a tiny spot in the center of the retina, is responsible for our sharp, detailed vision and our straight ahead or central vision. As the photoreceptor cells in the macula start to degenerate or die, the result is blurred vision - vision that is no longer crisp and clear and in advanced stages there is loss of central vision. However peripheral or side vision remains functional.

How Fast Does Macular Degeneration Progress?

One of the biggest concerns for those who receive a diagnosis of macular degeneration is how fast does this retinal disease progress. Many people write me asking questions like these about what to expect once they've received a diagnosis of AMD:

1. How soon will I experience vision changes and/or loss of my central vision?

2. Will I go blind?

3. Does dry macular degeneration always turn to wet macular degeneration? If yes, how fast will this happen.

For the majority of people, age related macular degeneration progresses slowly. There is loss of central vision in advanced stages but AMD does not result in blindness. The most important factor affecting one's macular degeneration prognosis is if the patient has dry AMD or wet AMD.

Dry Age Related Macular Degeneration

Almost 85-90% of those with macular degeneration have the dry form. The progression of dry macular degeneration is often slow and and may take years for it to worsen.

However, the dry form can turn into the wet form... and it can turn into the wet form very suddenly, even for those with early stage AMD. All those with wet AMD had the dry form first. There is no way to tell if or when the dry form will turn into the wet form.

Wet Macular Degeneration

Only 10%-15% of AMD cases are the wet or exudative form. Wet AMD causes loss of central vision much quicker than the dry form ...and each eye can have a different form of macular degeneration. So one eye may lose central vision quicker than the other eye. Why does the wet form cause more severe vision loss?

In wet AMD, blood vessels that are weak and fragile grow from the choroid layer (a layer of tissue under the macula) and they leak blood and fluid. This damages the cone cells in the macula.

Dr. Michael A. Samuel, ophthalmologist and author of Macular Degeneration: A Complete Guide for Patients and Their Families writes, "There's usually no way to know, once symptoms appear, how fast the disease will progress. You can go for years with a mild case of dry AMD, only to wake up one morning with drastic changes that indicate the onset of wet AMD."

To learn about the factors that contribute to the progression of dry and wet macular degeneration or to read what others have experienced in their journey with AMD click here:

Macular Degeneration Progession Signs and Symptoms

Leslie Degner, RN, BSN

Better Health for Better Vision

Back to Back Issues Page