john Gill technology header image

Macular Degeneration


UK & Global [1]

  • It is estimated that there are over 500,000 people with macular conditions in the UK
  • Macular degeneration is the most common form of visual impairment in the UK and throughout the developed world

Global [2]

  • Global causes of blindness as a proportion of total blindness in 2002: Age-related Macular Degeneration 8.7%


The eye is shaped like a ball. The pupil, close to the front, is the opening, which allows light to enter the eye. Just behind the pupil is the lens, which focuses the light on the retina at the back of the eye. The retina is a delicate tissue, which converts the light into images, and sends them to the brain. The macula is a small area at the very centre of the retina. The macula is very important and is responsible for what we see straight in front of us, allowing us to see fine detail for activities such as reading and writing, as well as our ability to see colour.

What is macular degeneration?
Sometimes the delicate cells of the macula become damaged and stop working, and there are many different conditions which can cause this. If it occurs later in life, it is called “age-related macular degeneration”, also often known as AMD.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of macular degeneration or AMD, usually referred to as “wet” and “dry”. This is not a description of what the eye feels like but what the ophthalmologist (eye specialist) can see when looking at the macula.

“Dry” AMD is the most common form of the condition. It develops very slowly causing gradual loss of central vision. Many people find that the vision cells simply stop working like the colours fading in an old photograph. There is no medical treatment for this type. However, aids such as magnifiers can be helpful with reading and other small detailed tasks.

“Wet” AMD results in a build-up of fluid under the retina. This causes bleeding and scarring which leads to sight loss. It can develop quickly and sometimes responds to laser treatment in the early stages. It accounts for only about 10 per cent of all people with AMD.

AMD usually involves both eyes, although one may be affected long before the other. This sometimes makes the condition difficult to notice at first because the sight in the “good” eye is compensating for the loss of sight in the affected eye.

In the early stages your central vision may be blurred or distorted, with objects looking an unusual size or shape and straight lines appearing wavy or fuzzy. This may happen quickly or develop over several months. You may be very sensitive to light or actually see lights, shapes and colours that are not there. This may cause occasional discomfort. AMD is not painful.

Because AMD affects the centre of the retina, people with the advanced condition will often notice a blank patch or dark spot in the centre of their sight. This makes reading, writing and recognising small objects or faces very difficult.

Further information


The information contained in this section was collected from the following sources:

[1] World Health Organisation (2004) Magnitude and causes of visual impairment. [accessed 28/11/12].


John Gill Technology Limited Footer
John Gill Technology Limited Footer