What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular Degeneration (also known as Age-Related Macular Degeneration – AMD) is the most common cause of untreatable blindness in developed countries. It is the damage or breakdown of the macula, causes no pain, and usually affects both eyes.
The macula is a very small part of the retina and is responsible for central vision. It is used for the finest detailed vision which is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving.
In some cases AMD can develop very slowly and people notice little change in their vision. In other cases, the disease can progress rapidly and may lead to a loss of vision in both eyes.
AMD occurs in both a Wet and a Dry form.
What is Dry AMD?
This is when the light sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down, gradually blurring central vision in the affected eye. As Dry AMD gets worse, you may see a blurred spot in the centre of your vision. Over time, as the macula functions less, central vision is gradually lost in the affected eye.
Dry AMD gradually causes increased difficulty in reading or doing other close-vision tasks, especially in poor light. In more advanced cases it may cause difficulty in recognising faces or with domestic tasks such as cooking. In extreme cases, it can cause legal blindness, however patients usually retain good peripheral vision with AMD.
What is Wet AMD?
Wet AMD often causes sudden symptoms, especially distortion or a blind spot in the central vision of one or both eyes. Wet AMD can worsen quite rapidly. It is when the process that occurs in the dry form is complicated by the growth of abnormal new blood vessels which can leak fluid and blood into the delicate tissues of the retina. This causes damage and loss of function but more importantly, leads to a formation of destructive scars at the macula. Once a scar has formed the damage to the macula is permanent.
Who is at risk for AMD?
Generally AMD affects the elderly, who are usually in their 70’s and 80’s. Occasionally people in their 60’s or younger can develop it.
Most people will show signs of change to their macula as they get older but not everyone will develop Age-Related Macular Degeneration.
Smoking, Obesity and Family History are all higher risk factors for a person to be diagnosed with AMD. Women tend to be more prone to AMD then men.
Can AMD Be Prevented?
Macular Degeneration cannot be prevented, but the risk of symptoms can be reduced by a healthy lifestyle.
- Have periodic eye examinations by your Optometrist to detect early signs
- Don’t Smoke
- Eat a healthy balanced diet high in green leafy vegetables and fish
- Maintain normal blood pressure
- Watch your weight
Can Macular Degeneration Be Treated?
Dry Macular Degeneration at an advanced stage, has no form of treatment to prevent vision loss. Treatment can delay and possibly prevent a progression to an advanced stage where vision loss occurs.
Your Optometrist can perform a comprehensive eye health examination and refer you to a specialist Ophthalmologist who will discuss all your treatment options with you.
Wet Macular Degeneration can be treated with laser surgery, photodynamic therapy and injections into the eye. None of these treatments is a cure for Wet Macular Degeneration and the disease may progress despite having treatments.
Note: This information is general in nature and is not a substitute for specialist medical advice. Have your eyes checked regularly every two years, even if you have not noticed any symptoms or changes.