Macular degeneration. A dystrophy is something a person is born with. A degeneration is an acquired condition that occurs as a person ages. Macular degeneration is a disease of older people, whereby the macula suffers progressive damage and the patient suffers visual loss, either slowly or rapidly. A macular dystrophy usually shows up earlier in life, with variable visual consequences, depending on the disorder.
Genes vs age. Dystrophy is malfunction due to a genetic problem degeneration is usually age related. Macular dystrophies are rare such as stargadt disease, best's disease these are genetic in nature and are seen in young people. Macular degeneration is thought to be caused by oxidative damage in older people.
Unrelated diagnoses. Hereditary macular dystrophies, characterized by bilateral symmetrical macular pigmentary changes, are far less likely to result in vision loss by macular atrophy and/or edema from abnormal vascular leakage than age-related macular degeneration (which also has a genetic component).
Age of onset.. Typically, macular degeneration occurs in patients older than 55 years, and called age-related. There may be genetic associations as well. However, macular dystrophies are typically rare, inherited disorders occurring earlier in life which usually cause photoreceptor loss in the retina tissue. Both tend to cause central vision loss of varying degree. There is no effective treatment for dystrophy.
Genetics. Macular dystrophy is often cause by a defect in a gene for macular function, while age-related macular degeneration is not (currently known) to be caused by a gene malfunction, but from oxidative damage over time to the macula. Essentially it's genetics vs environment.
See below. A dystrophy is an inherited disorder where as a degeneration is acquired during life.