Macular degeneration is a condition that affects a small part of the retina at the back of the eye, called the macula. It can cause visual disturbances, such as blurring, blind spots, and distorted images.

There are two types of macular degeneration: wet and dry.

Macular degeneration is a progressive disease, which means that it will worsen over time. It does not cause physical pain or alter the appearance of the eyes.

Read on to learn more about changes in vision related to macular degeneration, including symptoms, differences between wet and dry types, and when to contact a doctor.

A band of light illuminating a person's eyes.Share on Pinterest
/Stocksy/Getty Images

Macular degeneration affects the middle part of a person’s vision. It does not affect the edges of vision, also called peripheral vision.

Initially, a person with macular degeneration may not notice any changes in their vision. However, common changes in vision, which usually progress over several years, include:

  • Blurred or distorted vision: This is usually in the middle part of the vision and can make details difficult to see.
  • Metamorphopsia: This makes straight lines appear wavy or crooked.
  • Blind spots: These are usually in the middle part of the vision. They can become large and make tasks such as reading difficult or impossible.
  • Objects looking smaller than usual: This is due to changes in the macula.
  • Colors seeming less bright: This occurs when the cones in the eye, which are responsible for color vision, are weakened.
  • Poor low light vision: A person with MD may benefit from additional lighting.

Additionally, a person with macular degeneration may have hallucinations and see things that are not there. This is known as Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS). The images are often common, pleasant images of people or things.

However, this is more common in advanced blindness caused by macular degeneration or other retinopathies. Without visual data coming in through the eyes, the brain fills a void and makes up images or recalls stored images for a person to see. This is what causes the visual hallucinations of CBS.

Learn more about hallucinations and dementia.

Macular degeneration affects both distance and near vision as both involve the central cones in the macula. The common symptoms of blurring and blind spots, for example, affect both distance and near vision.

Low vision means that even with glasses or contact lenses, vision loss makes it difficult to do everyday tasks. This includes detailed tasks requiring near vision, such as sewing, and tasks requiring distance vision, such as driving.

Learn about age-related maclar degeneration.

The rate at which macular degeneration progresses can vary from person to person. Additionally, macular degeneration can affect one or both eyes. This will determine to what extent a person’s vision is affected.

The changes in vision associated with macular degeneration vary depending on whether a person has a dry or wet type.

Dry macular degeneration, which accounts for around 90% of people with the condition, develops gradually. Wet MD tends to develop more quickly and greatly affects a person’s vision.

Learn whether macular degeneration causes blindness.

Macular degeneration can affect people in different ways. The changes in vision associated with wet and dry types depend on the stage and progression of the condition.

The table below summarizes the possible changes in vision at each stage.

Early dry MDCentral vision becomes blurry. This may not be very noticeable and develops over time, and at this stage, a person with macular degeneration (MD) may find that they need more light to read or sew.
Intermediate dry MDThe blurred area increases in size, and there may also be blind spots. At this stage, colors may seem less bright.
Late dry MDA larger portion of the center of vision may become blurred, and straight lines appear wavy.
Late wet MDCentral vision becomes blurry, often quickly, and there may also be blind spots. Colors may seem less bright, and straight lines may appear wavy with the waviness of lines increasing.

Learn more about wet vs. dry macular degeneration.

Someone experiencing sudden vision changes should contact an optometrist or doctor for assessment. Warning signs of MD might include:

  • having difficulty reading, even with glasses
  • straight lines looking wavy or distorted
  • vision not being as clear as it used to be

There is no cure for macular degeneration. However, early diagnosis and treatment may help slow the progression.

Sometimes, a routine eye test may detect MD before a person experiences any noticeable symptoms. If an eye doctor identifies macular degeneration, they will likely do further tests to determine its progression.

Macular degeneration affects a tiny part of the retina at the back of the eye called the macula. These changes affect the central part of a person’s vision.

The type and stage of macular degeneration will determine a person’s vision. Some of the most widespread changes in vision are a blurred or distorted area of vision, blind spots, and straight lines looking wavy or crooked.

Early diagnosis and treatment may help slow the progression.