What is wet age-related macular degeneration?

Wet macular degeneration doesn't affect peripheral vision but can cause significant central vision loss.

Age-related macular (MAK-u-luhr) degeneration is a chronic eye disease that affects the part of the retina responsible for your central vision (the macula). The disease is one of the most common causes of vision loss in older adults. Macular degeneration typically causes blurred or distorted vision or a blind spot in the center of your visual field. It doesn't affect your side (peripheral) vision.

Normal vision and vision with macular degeneration depicted Vision with macular degeneration

As macular degeneration develops, clear, normal vision (shown left) becomes impaired by a distorted blur with missing areas. With advanced macular degeneration, a blind spot typically forms at the center of your visual field (shown right).

Wet macular degeneration is one of two types of age-related macular degeneration. The other type — dry macular degeneration — is more common and may be less severe. The wet type, which affects only about 10 to 15 percent of those with macular degeneration, always begins as the dry type.

Wet macular degeneration vision loss can be caused by:

  • Abnormal blood vessel growth. Abnormal blood vessels can grow into the macula starting from a layer beneath the retina, called the choroid. These blood vessels can leak fluid or blood, interfering with the retina's function.
  • Fluid buildup in the back of the eye. When fluid leaks under the retina, it can collect and cause distortion of the macular layers.

See an eye doctor regularly and as soon as possible if you notice any changes to your vision. Wet age-related macular degeneration can appear suddenly and progress quickly. Treatment may help slow vision loss and preserve independence.

Sept. 21, 2023 See more In-depth