Signs and Symptoms of Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on September 21, 2022
3 min read

The wet form of age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD) can start suddenly. You won’t feel pain, but you might notice problems with your eyesight.

At first, you may simply notice blurred or distorted vision. With wet AMD, the details of the blurred vision could include a blind spot in the center of your field of vision. This blank area could be gray, red, or black. 

For example, if you look straight at the face of a clock that has hands, the numbers around the edge might look normal, but you might not be able to see the clock’s hands.

Another sign is that things look twisted or distorted, like you were seeing them in a mirror that’s out of shape.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Straight lines look wavy
  • Not being able to see fine details clearly
  • Trouble reading or seeing details in low light
  • Being bothered by glare 
  • Seeing an object’s size or color differently with one eye than with the other.

Some wet AMD symptoms aren’t common, but you need to know about them in case they affect you.

When you have the disease, your eyes may need a long time to adjust when you go from bright light to some place dimmer. For instance, when you step from daylight into a dark movie theater, you might have a hard time seeing the seats. Your eyes might take 30 minutes to get used to the low light.

You might have no problem at the center of your vision except when you look at a white wall. Then you see a dark patch there.

You might rarely see flashes of light in the center of your field of vision. If the flashes crop up at the side of your field of view, that could be a different problem, such as a detached retina.

If you have severe vision loss, you may see things that aren’t there, in the blind spot at the center of your field of view. They could be patterns like wallpaper, or they might be people or animals. It happens because your brain fills in the blanks for the signals it isn’t getting from that part of your eye. 

You might hear your doctor call this Charles Bonnet syndrome. It can happen with other causes of vision loss, too.

Some eye problems may seem like signs of macular degeneration but aren’t. You need to see your eye doctor to find out what’s going on.

Floaters. These are dark specks that float around in the jelly-like stuff that fills your eye. They’re common and can cast shadows inside your eye. That may mimic the blank spot that AMD causes at the center of your vision. But floaters aren’t AMD symptoms.

Here’s one way to tell if your eye has floaters. If you move your eye quickly and then stop, a floater and its shadow will usually keep moving for a moment. Floaters are usually no problem. 

But if you have floaters and also see flashes at the edge of your field of view, that could signal a problem with the retina at the rear of your eye. Tell your eye doctor.

Late-onset retinal degeneration. With this condition, your vision is blurred and gets worse. Like AMD, it can start in your 50s or 60s. But late-onset retinal degeneration messes up your entire field of vision, while AMD mainly affects the center.

Most people with AMD have the dry form, which usually does less damage to your vision. But the dry type can turn into the wet type. 

If you have dry AMD, be on guard for any changes in your eyesight, and get regular checkups with your eye doctor so that you’re aware if it changes to wet AMD.

Taking dietary supplements may help slow the progression of dry AMD. A recent study found that a vitamin and mineral mixture known as AREDS2 is the most effective. It can slow the progression of AMD by about 25%, research shows. Unlike the original AREDS formula, AREDS2 includes antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin and does not have beta carotene. 

Ask your doctor if supplements might help you.