What is Macular Degeneration?

The macula is the central part of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The retina processes all visual images. It is responsible for your ability to read, recognise faces, drive and see colours clearly. You are reading this computer screen using your macula. Macular Degeneration (MD) causes progressive macular damage resulting in loss of central vision but the peripheral vision is not affected.

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What are the types of MD?

There are two types of MD, dry and wet.   Dry MD results in a gradual loss of central vision.  Wet MD is characterised by a sudden loss of vision caused by abnormal blood vessels growing under the retina. Immediate medical treatment of wet MD is essential if symptoms occur.

wet md

How can you tell if you have MD?

Symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • Distortion, where straight lines appear wavy or bent
  • Difficulty reading or other activities that require
    fine vision
  • Distinguishing faces becomes a problem
  • Dark patches or empty spaces appear in the centre of
    your vision
  • Poor night vision
  • Decreased colour sensitivity



What are the risk factors?

Aside from increasing age over 50 years, MD is thought to be caused by genetic and environmental factors. 

If you smoke or have a family history of MD, your risk of developing the disease is much greater.

Other risk factors include diet and lifestyle.

blurred vision


How common is MD?

MD is the leading cause of severe vision loss. 1 in 7 people over the age of 50 years is affected in some way and the incidence increases with age. 1 in 4 people over the age of 80 have some vision loss.


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Map: Where is MD in NZ?

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a growing problem in NZ. Total prevalence is predicted to be 206,908 in 2018.

View more

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Getting tested is simple

There is a quick and easy way to tell if MD affects your vision. Click on the link below to see if you have the common warning signs.


Test Button

 MDNZ Website 3steps

Amsler Grid

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The Amsler grid is a useful tool to detect vision problems resulting from damage to the macula (the central part of the retina).

Report any irregularity to your eye doctor immediately.

The grid does not replace having your macula tested by an eye care professional, particularly if you are over 50 yrs old or have any risk factors for macular degeneration.

How to do it

  1. Cover one eye, then focus on the dot in the centre.
  2. Do any of the lines look wavy, blurred or distorted?
  3. Are there any missing areas or dark areas in the grid?
  4. Don't forget to test
    both eyes.

What you need to know

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What's the chance?

In New Zealand MD affects 1 in 7 people over the age of 50 years

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Smokers have 3 times the risk of developing MD and tend to develop MD 10 years earlier than non-smokers

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Is it getting worse?

It is estimated the number of people with MD will increase by 70% by 2030

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More common than you think

Age related Macular Degeneration is the most common cause of blindness

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You need to know!

Of those most at risk (50+) 67% have heard of MD and only 48% understand that it is an eye disorder. *Galaxy Poll March 2014

People with a family history of MD have a 50% chance of inheriting the genetic predisposition of developing MD.

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What if I don't have treatment?

Untreated, the majority of people with wet MD become functionally blind within 2 years

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