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About macular degeneration

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular Degeneration (MD), also known as age-related macular degeneration, is the name given to a group of diseases of the retina that cause progressive, painless loss of central vision. This deterioration can affect the individual’s ability to see fine detail, drive, read, and recognise faces.

Macular Degeneration (MD) is the leading cause of legal blindness in Australia, and there is no cure. However, the earlier the disease is detected, the more vision you are likely to retain – which is why regular eye examinations by your local optometrist are so important.

Treatment aims to slow down the progression of the condition, depending on the stage and type of the disease (wet, dry, and other forms), and preserve as much vision as possible.

Normal Retina

Normal retina

Dry ARMD

Wet ARMD

Wet ARMD

Both wet and dry forms of MD begin in the Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE), a layer of cells underneath the retina. These cells are responsible for passing oxygen, sugar and other essentials up to the retina, and moving waste products down to the blood vessels below.

Macular Degeneration occurs when this “garbage collection” breaks down, and the waste products from the retina build up underneath the RPE. These deposits, known as ‘drusen’, are easily seen as yellow spots, during an eye examination by your optometrist.

As MD progresses, vision loss occurs, either because:

  • the RPE cells die;
  • or because they have failed to prevent blood vessels from the choroid growing into the retina.

In the early stages of Macular Degeneration, when drusen first appear, you may not realise anything is wrong and you may still have normal vision. Regular eye testing is the best way to ensure that the disease is detected early on, so that treatment can begin, thus stabilising and maintaining as much of your sight as possible.

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

  • Distorted vision, where a grid of straight lines may appear wavy or bent
  • Blurred vision: a gradual decline in the ability to see objects clearly
  • Dark patches, shadows or empty spaces appearing in the centre of your vision, and parts of a grid of straight lines may appear blank
  • Difficulty distinguishing faces.

 

  • Difficulty reading or doing any other activity that requires fine vision
  • Trouble discerning colours
  • Sensitivity to glare
  • Slow adjustment of vision after exposure to bright lights
  • Need for increased illumination
Normal Vision

Normal Vision

Vision with Age-related Macular DegenerationVision with Age-related Macular Degeneration

Vision with Age-related Macular Degeneration

Do the Amsler Grid test

About this test

The Amsler grid is a tool that optometrists use to detect vision problems caused by macular degeneration.

Instructions:

  1. Do not remove glasses or contact lenses normally used for reading
  2. Hold grid at eye level (approximately 33cm away) in a well lit room
  3. Cover one eye and focus on the centre dot with the uncovered eye (make sure the eye is fully covered)
  4. Repeat with the other eye
  5. If the line appears wavy or distorted, blurred or with a missing segment, it may indicate there is an issue with your macula

 

grid-test

Prevention & Treatment of Macular Degeneration

  • Early detection of macular degeneration is crucial, as some forms of the disease may be arrested with early treatment
  • Regular eye examinations are the key to early detection before vision loss occurs
  • Eat a healthy diet which includes fish at least two times a week and plenty of dark green leafy vegetables.Eat fresh fruit every day along with nuts and avoid fatty foods
  • Consider taking a zinc and anti-oxidant supplement
  • Use eye protection (eg sunglasses) against UV damage – this is especially important before macular degeneration develops
  • Maintain a healthy weight and get some regular exercise
  • Don’t smoke

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