Diagnosis and treatment: AMD


If you are having problems with your vision visit your GP or optometrist. If they think you have AMD they will refer you onto an ophthalmologist (a doctor specialising in eye health).

The ophthalmologist will look into the back of your eye with a light to check for any damage. A series of tests will then be carried out in order to diagnose AMD. Photos of your retina will also be taken so the ophthalmologist can establish the extent of any damage to your eye and determine whether the AMD is in an early, intermediate or advanced stage.

It is important to remember that you have a legal obligation to notify the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) if your vision or any medical problem is affecting your ability to drive. In order to be able to drive safely you should, when wearing your glasses, be able to read a car number plate at 20 metres. For more information on macular degeneration and driving and how to inform the DVLA of medical conditions visit the DVLA website.


At the moment there is no treatment for dry AMD. Deterioration of vision in dry AMD tends to be slow and only affects central vision. Peripheral vision is normally undamaged which allows some functional sight to be maintained. There are many practical aids to help with sight loss such as magnifiers and large print reading materials, while simple use of bright lighting can help with tasks that require fine detail. See our ‘help and support’ page for more details on organisations that can help you access vision loss aids. There is some evidence that vitamins A, C and E along with zinc and copper may help slow down the development of AMD but this has not been proven to work in everyone.


Treatment for wet AMD can either be medication to stop new blood vessels developing or laser surgery which destroys the blood vessels that are growing under the macula.


In wet AMD too much of a substance called Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is produced by the body and this stimulates the growth of new blood vessels. Anti-VEGF medication blocks the action of VEGF and stops it producing new blood vessels. This medication is injected directly into your eye with a small needle and you will be given anaesthetic to numb the eye before the injection so it will not hurt. Anti-VEGF medication has been shown to slow the loss of central vision in around 90% of people that have been treated with it and can even improve vision in a number of patients. If you are being treated with anti-VEGF medication you will receive an injection in your eye once a month for three months. Your doctor will then monitor your progress and decide whether or not you require further injections. You may experience some side effects from treatment with anti-VEGF medication including bleeding, pain and irritation in the injected eye but these should subside within a few days of having the injection.



The laser surgery used to treat wet AMD is called ‘photo dynamic therapy’ or PDT. The procedure involves having a type of light-sensitive medicine injected into your arm which makes its way into the new blood vessels that have formed in the macula in the eye. A laser is then shone into your eye which activates the medication allowing it to destroy the new blood vessels without damaging other areas of your eye. Only around 1 in 5 people will be suitable for treatment with PDT.  It may be necessary to have the treatment every few months to control growth of new blood vessels.

Laser photocoagulation is another form of surgical treatment in which a powerful laser is used to burn an area of your retina to prevent blood vessels forming. Again this treatment is not suitable for everyone and it does cause a permanent ‘spot’ on your vision so the side effects need to be considered carefully before treatment begins. Laser photocoagulation tends only to be used when other forms of treatment are unsuccessful or not suitable.

There are also newer surgical techniques emerging to treat AMD including macular translocation in which the macular is repositioned within the eye and lens implantation in which the lens is replaced with an artificial one designed to enhance central vision. These have both been shown to be successful at treating AMD but access to them may be limited and they do have a higher risk of complications than other, more established forms of treatment.

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Useful links

  • The Health A-Z section of this website contains information of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of many types of illnesses.  It also includes video interviews with specialists and patients.  NHS inform is a new national health information service providing a single source of quality assured health information for the public in Scotland.

  • SHOW (Scotland's Health on the Web) provides information on more than 100 topics covering all aspects of healthy living and advice on coping with long-term health conditions as well as the NHS and health services.


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