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Dry age-related macular degeneration is an eye disease that blurs your central vision. It’s due to damage to your macula, the area that’s in the center of your retina. When you have AMD, it’s hard to see fine details. But your side vision is still normal.  

Almost 20 million Americans age 40 or older have AMD. About 80% of them have dry AMD. With this type of AMD, the macula gets thinner with age. It’s less serious than the other form of AMD, called wet AMD. If you have dry AMD, you'll gradually lose your vision over several years.

There’s no cure for dry AMD, but there’s a lot you can do to help prevent it from progressing, and to live a full life. Here’s how. 

Know Your Treatment Options

For years, there was no treatment for dry AMD. But now, two treatments are available for people who have a specific type of AMD, called dry AMD with geographic atrophy. These medications are:

  • Pegcetacoplan (Syfovre)
  • Avacincaptad pegol (Izervay)

They target a certain protein that attacks the retina and causes vision loss. They’re injected directly into your eye. The hope is that they’re able to slow down the progression of your AMD.

In addition, if you have intermediate AMD, your doctor may recommend that you take a certain supplement combination. It’s called AREDS2. Research suggests that it may slow the progression of dry AMD in certain people. It contains:

  • Vitamin C (500 milligrams)
  • Vitamin E (400 international units)
  • Lutein (10 milligrams)
  • Zeaxanthin (2 milligrams)
  • Zinc (80 milligrams)
  • Copper (2 milligrams)

You can buy AREDS2 supplements in drugstores or online. Ask your doctor if they have a specific brand recommendation. If they don’t, check the ingredient list to make sure it has all the vitamins and minerals in the exact amounts above.

Make Lifestyle Changes

There are a few things you can also do on your own to help slow down the progression of your dry AMD:

Stop smoking. Smokers are twice as likely to have AMD as nonsmokers. Smoking also causes AMD to get worse.

Eat a Mediterranean-style diet. This eating pattern (which is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fatty fish) has been shown to reduce the risk of AMD. One study also found that people who followed this diet were about 40% less likely to progress to advanced AMD.

Limit alcohol. It’s been linked to worse cases of AMD.

Wear sunglasses whenever you’re outside or in the car. UV light can damage your eyes even further. Look for specs that block 100% of UV rays, and carry them with you at all times – you never know when you might need them!

Learn to Live with Low Vision

The good news is that there are many assistive technologies that can help you lead a full life with dry AMD. These include:

  • Eyeglasses with high-powered lenses to maximize whatever vision you still have
  • Large-print books and other reading materials
  • Clocks and phones with large numbers, contrast colors, and talk functions
  • CCTV, a combination of a camera and TV screen. It magnifies whatever you are looking at, like a book, so you can see it on screen. 
  • Low-vision magnifiers, which you can either hold in your hand or connect to your computer 
  • Telescopic devices, which allow you to see objects that are farther away, like the stage at a theater or a movie screen
  • Special computer software to magnify the screen or convert text into speech so you can hear it

Your eye doctor can put you in touch with a local organization that specializes in low vision technologies. You can also find more resources on the American Council for the Blind website. 

Pay Attention to Your Mental Health

Over 40% of people with AMD have depression. You may feel sad about your vision loss. You may also find that you’re socially isolated, since it’s harder for you to drive or get around to do activities you usually enjoy. This can make you feel even worse. 

It’s important to be aware of signs of depression such as:

  • Negative thoughts
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Decreased energy and fatigue
  • Crying a lot
  • Lack of interest in things you once enjoyed
  • Social withdrawal

If you have any of the above symptoms for more than 2 weeks, talk to your doctor. They can refer you to a talk therapist who can help you work through some of these emotions. They may also recommend a low vision rehabilitation program. These programs have you work with a variety of providers, including doctors who specialize in low vision, psychologists, and occupational therapists. They can help you cope with your vision loss.

Support groups are also very important. You’ll connect with people who understand your experience. You also may get valuable advice on how to cope with your low vision. There are online communities for AMD on Facebook. You can also find links to support groups on the Macular Degeneration Association website.

Stay on Top of Doctor Appointments

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends that everyone age 65 or older have an eye exam at least every 2 years. But if you have dry AMD, you’ll need to be seen more frequently. AMD can progress quickly, and if you have AMD in one eye, you are more likely to get it in the other eye, too. This way, your doctor can monitor your eye health. Your eye doctor will let you know how often they want to see you. 

It’s also important to monitor your vision at home. The AAO recommends that people with AMD use an Amsler grid every day to check their vision. It’s a simple square that contains a grid with a dot in the middle. If you use it once a day, it can flag problem spots in your field of vision. 

Look at it from about 12-15 inches away. (Use reading glasses if you normally wear them.) Now cover one eye. Check if any lines look bent or wavy. Repeat on the other eye. Call your eye doctor right away if any lines look wavy, blurry, or dim. 

Show Sources

Photo Credit: Moment/Getty Images


American Academy of Ophthalmology: “What is Macular Degeneration?”

American Macular Degeneration Foundation: “Assistive Technology for Age-Related Macular Degeneration.”

CDC: “Prevalence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration.”

National Eye Institute: “Age-Related Macular Degeneration.”

Ophthalmology: “Mediterranean Diet and Incidence of Advanced Age-Related Macular Degeneration: The EYE-RISK Consortium.”

UpToDate: “Age-Related Macular Degeneration.”