Geographic atrophy is an advanced form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Treatment cannot cure geographic atrophy but may be able to help slow its progression.

AMD is a common cause of vision loss associated with aging. It is a progressive condition that can eventually lead to significant vision loss.

Geographic atrophy is the advanced stage of AMD. It will often affect both eyes.

While it may not be possible to cure AMD, a person may be able to help reduce their risk of developing geographic atrophy or slowing its progression.

One of the best ways to help reduce the risk of geographic atrophy with macular degeneration is to take steps to reduce the risk of AMD.

In a 2021 study, researchers looked at ways a person may slow or prevent AMD from progressing.

Their research looked into effective ways to reduce the risk of AMD. It found evidence suggesting that a person may be able to help by:

  • eating a balanced diet
  • participating in moderate physical activity
  • avoiding smoking, if necessary

More specifically, they mentioned the Mediterranean diet may provide some of the best protection against AMD.

However, the most pronounced risk factors include family history and advancing age, which a person cannot change.

Generally, it takes several years for AMD to progress to geographic atrophy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data from 2019, about 2% of people between ages 40–45 years were living with any stage of AMD, with about 0.02% living with vision-threatening AMD.

People living with vision-threatening AMD remained below 1% until the 75–79 age group, where it increased to 1.51%. The percentage increased to 4.6% in the 80–84 age group and again to 9.2% for people ages 85–89 years.

The data suggests it can take some time for AMD to advance to vision-threatening stages, such as geographic atrophy with macular degeneration.

Once at that stage, lesions or damaged areas of the macula develop and expand. Doctors measure progression in terms of how quickly the lesions grow.

Some evidence suggests a growth rate between 0.53 square millimeters (mm2) and 2.6 mm2 per year. Other evidence suggests the growth rate could be as high as 10.2 mm2 per year.

Once macular degeneration begins, medication and treatments may be able to slow the progression.

Progression will not occur at the same rate for everyone. Several factors can influence the growth of geographic atrophy lesions, including:

  • number of lesions present
  • size of the lesion when it first develops
  • the unaffected eye’s health status
  • location of the lesion or lesions
  • presence of high levels of hyper autofluorescence found on fundus autofluorescence (FAF) — a noninvasive imaging test of the eye

Other influencing factors may include genetics, environment, and demographics.

Two current treatments can help slow progression or reverse damage from geographic atrophy. Other treatment options cannot slow and fix the damage that has already occurred.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an injection of pegcetacoplan (Syfovre) in February 2023. The injection may help slow the progression of the disease. In August 2023, the FDA approved a second injection of avacincaptad pegol intravitreal solution (Izervay) that may also help slow the progression of the disease.

Other treatments are currently in clinical trials. Pending the results, these may become available to help treat geographic atrophy.

According to the 2007 Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) study, using vitamins does not slow the progression of AMD into geographic atrophy.

This combination of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C and E, is known as the AREDS/AREDS2 formula. This formula is known to help prevent wet AMD — another advanced form of AMD — and AMD progression into the other eye once one eye experiences vision loss.

The AREDS/AREDS2 formula may help prevent the development of new blood vessels (neovascularization) associated with wet AMD but not slow geographic atrophy progression.

Some evidence suggests that healthy, balanced eating can influence the development of AMD.

The Mediterranean diet may help play a protective role for the eyes due to its focus on whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats.

Some vitamins and minerals that may help reduce the risk of AMD may include:

  • vitamin E
  • vitamin C
  • lutein
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • zeaxanthin
  • zinc
  • beta-carotene

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a person take the following combination of vitamins and minerals — the AREDS/AREDS2 formula — to help prevent the development of late stages of AMD:

  • vitamin C (ascorbic acid) 500 milligrams (mg)
  • copper (as cupric oxide) 2 mg
  • lutein 10 mg
  • zinc (as zinc oxide) 80 mg
  • zeaxanthin 2 mg
  • vitamin E 400 international units (IU)

A person at risk of developing AMD should consider speaking with an optometrist about what vitamins they should take to help improve eye health.

Geographic atrophy is an advanced stage of AMD. Two treatment options can help slow the progression of the disease.

Following a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking may help prevent its development.

A person should consider speaking with an optometrist or other eye healthcare professional to discuss their personal risk of AMD and steps they can take to reduce their risk.