Macular Degeneration Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

In the United States alone, there are as many as 11 million people who have age-related macular degeneration (AMD). For older Americans (starting at age 60), this is the leading reason for vision loss.

With AMD, the macula at the center of the light-sensitive retina in the back of the eye begins to break down. As a result, it may no longer be possible to see fine details.

This article will delve into key facts and statistics about macular degeneration, an all-too-common eye condition.

Person sitting on couch using magnifier to read due to macular degeneration vision loss

DjordjeDjurdjevic / Getty Images

Macular Degeneration Overview

Macular degeneration affects your central vision, which enables you to see sharp details. This makes it hard to distinguish things like faces or letters, although you do keep some side vision. There are two different forms of this condition—dry and wet.

Dry macular degeneration is the most common type, affecting eight out of 10 people with AMD. With the dry form, protein deposits known as drusen collect underneath the light-sensitive retina. The macula may begin to break down and get thinner, a condition called geographic atrophy.

Even if dry macular degeneration does not progress to wet macular degeneration, this form can still cause vision loss. At any point, dry AMD can turn into the wet form or can just remain as is.

With wet macular degeneration, new blood vessels begin to grow. These can begin to leak onto the retina and scar, affecting vision.

How Common Is Macular Degeneration?

In the United States, macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss for those over age 50. Approximately 11 million people in the United States have age-related macular degeneration.

As the population of older Americans increases, it is expected that the number of people with AMD will increase as age is the primary risk factor. But rates could decline, too.

One study shows a dramatic decline in AMD for people of the Baby Boom generation (born 1946 to 1964) compared to people born 1901 to 1924 and 1925 to 1945. The study could not pinpoint changes in risk factors that could explain this decline.

Macular Degeneration by Ethnicity

White people of older age are more likely to be diagnosed with macular degeneration than other groups.

A large study of a U.S. managed care medical plan found White people to be more at risk for AMD and Black people to be at lower risk. Asian Americans were at higher risk than Whites at age 60, but there was no difference in risk at age 80.

The study found Latinx people varied in their risk for dry or wet AMD at different ages relative to White people, with the same or less risk of dry AMD at 60 and 80 and increased risk for wet AMD at 60.

Condition by Age and Gender

Age is the biggest risk factor for macular degeneration, with rates increasing with age. A study following a large group of subjects in Wisconsin found these five-year incidence rates, which predict the chance of developing the condition in five years:

Age Group  Five-Year Incidence 
 22 to 39 0.3% 
 40 to 49 1.0%
 50 to 59 2.8%
 60 to 69 7.5%
70 to 79 15.4%
80 to 86 19.5%
Overall 4.2%

Gender can play a role in whether or not you develop AMD. Women develop AMD more frequently than their male counterparts.

Just 35 out of 100 men in the United States develop macular degeneration compared with 65 out of 100 women. This is believed to be related to the fact that women live longer than men and macular degeneration is an age-related disease. In women, age is in fact the key risk factor for developing AMD.

Causes of Macular Degeneration and Risk Factors

Currently, the underlying cause of macular degeneration remains unknown. However, this condition has been linked to various risk factors that can help predict if you fall into a group, making it more likely to develop AMD.

Some risk factors to keep in mind here include the following:

  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Age
  • Hypertension (chronic high blood pressure)
  • Female sex assigned at birth
  • White ethnicity
  • Obesity

Screening and Early Detection

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a complete eye examination every year or two after age 65 to look for AMD and other eye conditions.

It's important to know if you have macular degeneration and also how this may be affecting the retina. Damage to the retina by macular degeneration cannot be reversed. But in some cases, treatment can slow the progression of the disease.

To determine if you have signs of macular degeneration, your eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist) will likely perform the following tests:

  • Dilated eye exam: During this test, your eye practitioner will widen your pupil and look inside the eye for signs of optic nerve damage.
  • Ophthalmoscopy: Through the dilated pupil, your eye doctor will use an ophthalmoscope, which with the aid of a beam of light, will enable examination of the retina, choroid, blood vessels, and optic disk (the retinal area where the optic nerve is connected) to see if AMD is affecting these areas.
  • Fundus photography: Using a customized camera, the eye doctor can photograph the retina, macula (part of the retina responsible for fine detail), and optic nerve (the tissue that carries visual information from the eye to the brain) and look for signs of damage.
  • Fluorescein angiography: With this test, dye is injected into your arm. Then, when a light is shone on the eye, it is possible to see blood vessel leakage on the retina.
  • Optical coherence tomography: To look for thinning of the retina, your eye doctor can use OCT which gives a detailed image. An OCT can show if there is any fluid in the area, as well as any drusen deposits.
  • Amsler grid: By covering one eye and focusing on the dot in the middle of a grid with the other, you can look for missing areas or lines that are curved or blurry from AMD. This test can be performed at home.


Macular degeneration is a common eye problem in the United States, affecting about 11 million people. This condition can cause you to lose the central vision that enables you to see fine detail such as faces and letters.

Macular degeneration is more apt to affect Whites than other ethnic groups, and more women have this condition than men. You may also be at greater risk of developing AMD if you have a family history of macular degeneration, smoke, are over age 65, or are overweight.

A complete eye examination can screen for AMD, and people age 65 and over should have such exams every year or two.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Bright Focus Foundation. Age-related macular degeneration: facts & figures.

  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What is macular degeneration?

  4. Cruickshanks KJ, Nondahl DM, Johnson LJ, et al. Generational differences in the 5-year incidence of age-related macular degeneration. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2017;135(12):1417-1423. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2017.5001

  5. Vanderbeek BL, Zacks DN, Talwar N, Nan B, Musch DC, Stein JD. Racial differences in age-related macular degeneration rates in the United States: a longitudinal analysis of a managed care network. Am J Ophthalmol. 2011;152(2):273-282.e3. doi:10.1016/j.ajo.2011.02.004 (Although from 2011, this is the best study for racial stats).

  6. Korpole NR, Kurada P, Korpole MR. Gender difference in ocular diseases, risk factors and management with specific reference to role of sex steroid hormones. J Midlife Health. 2022;13(1):20-25. doi:10.4103/jmh.jmh_28_22

  7. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Age-related macular degeneration: diagnosis and management.

  8. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Eye health information for adults over 65.

By Maxine Lipner
Maxine Lipner is a long-time health and medical writer with over 30 years of experience covering ophthalmology, oncology, and general health and wellness.