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Wet vs. Dry Macular Degeneration: What's the Difference?

By Manjari Bansal
Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on August 02, 2022
Loss of central vision may occur with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Learn the differences between dry vs. wet macular degeneration.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of low vision and blindness in Americans over the age of 65. It is a vision problem that occurs with age and results in loss of sharp vision and central vision. There are two types of AMD: Wet and dry. Keep reading to learn the differences between the two.

Wet vs. Dry Macular Degeneration Symptoms

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, wet macular degeneration is less common, but more serious, than dry macular degeneration. 

David Eichenbaum, MD, retinal surgeon at Retina Vitreous Associates of Florida, tells WebMD Connect to Care that all macular degeneration starts as dry macular degeneration, but 10% to 15% of people progress to developing wet macular degeneration.

Dry Macular Degeneration

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, dry macular degeneration progresses slowly and accounts for 80% of macular degeneration cases. In dry macular degeneration, gradual thinning of your macula occurs and tiny clumps of protein form in your eye, which results in loss of central vision.

“Drusen, which are deposits of waste material that build up under the retina and cause damage over time, are a hallmark feature of dry AMD,” Joshua Mali, MD, ophthalmologist at The Eye Associates in Florida, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

Eichenbaum adds that dry macular degeneration may cause the following symptoms:

  • Visual distortions, such as straight lines seeming bent
  • Difficulty reading or doing close-up work
  • Difficulty seeing in low light
  • Increased blurriness
  • Decreased intensity or brightness of colors
  • A blurry or blind spot in your field of vision
  • Reduced central vision in one or both eyes

Wet Macular Degeneration

“In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels can form under the retina and leak blood or fluid out, causing swelling and damage,” Eichenbaum says.

Eichenbaum says common symptoms of wet macular degeneration may include the following:

  • Sudden blurred vision
  • Blind spots in the middle of your field of vision
  • Difficulty distinguishing colors and edges
  • Lines appearing wavy
  • Trouble seeing details in low light
  • Difficulty reading, driving, and seeing the television

“Symptoms may [affect] one or both eyes, so it’s important to check both eyes independently,” Eichenbaum says.


    “Early detection is the number one thing you can do to prevent vision loss from either form of AMD,” Eichenbaum says. “It’s important for everyone to visit their ophthalmologist at least once each year for an eye exam.”

    In addition, your doctor may suggest a formula of vitamins and supplements called AREDS2.  The combination was developed through a large study by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, called AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Study), which shows benefits if you take a supplement. AREDS2 is tweaked version of the original formula and contains Vitamin C and E , copper, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

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