Macular Degeneration - The Facts
This eye disease leads to loss of central vision, and it is the main cause of visual impairment for the over fifties in the western world. It does not cause total blindness. Usually referred to as Age Related Macular Degeneration – ARMD.
The macula is a tiny area of the retina, which is the light sensitive layer that lines the back of the eye. The macula allows us to see fine detail and colour, while the rest of the retina gives us our peripheral vision and picks up movement. Macular degeneration causes the patient varying amounts of difficulty in their daily life – it can impede vision for recognising faces, reading and driving.
There are two types of macular degeneration – wet and dry. The wet form occurs suddenly and rapidly progresses, so speedy diagnosis is essential. In some cases it can be stabilised if treated quickly after the symptoms appear. It occurs due to growth of abnormal blood vessels behind the macular – these leak fluid which damages and scars the macula.
The dry form progresses more slowly, and is due to gradual deterioration of the macular cells. There is currently no treatment but research is ongoing. Some lifestyle changes may stabilise or slow down the development. Smoking triples the risk of development, so give up at once! Have regular eye tests and consider a food supplement. Green leafy vegetables, red fruit and vegetables such as red peppers, and foods containing carotenoids will all help to protect your retina. Dietary supplements with Lutein and zeathanthin are the ones to look for.
If you suddenly think that your vision has changed, go to your Optometrist immediately, they will refer you on if there is a problem. If there is any suspicion that you have wet MD, you must be seen within the next week. If diagnosis is confirmed you will be offered treatment, advice and support. The Macular Disease Society has a help line and counselling service.
For details on the Macular Disease Society speak to your optician or go to their website www.maculardisease.org
If you would like to know if you are at risk of this disease go to
Monitoring Your Vision.
This simple chart, called the Amsler grid can show the early onset of AMD. Please note however that self diagnosis is no substitute for a professional consultation, and you must visit your optician if you are concerned.
Look at the grid at eye level, at a distance of approximately 30cm. Wear reading glasses if you need them, BUT NOT VARIFOCALS. Cover one eye, look at the central dot. Then check the other eye.
If any lines on the grid are distorted, wavy or broken, contact your Optometrist at once.