Macular degeneration is the leading cause of visual loss in people over the age of sixty. It occurs when the macula (the central part of the retina) deteriorates.
The term “macular degeneration” is the name given to a group of degenerative diseases of the retina that cause progressive painless loss of central vision.
Since the majority of macular degeneration takes place in older people, the common terminology used is age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).
The commonest symptoms of macular degeneration are blurring of vision, distortion, inability to read and recognise faces, and the appearance of dark patches in the middle of the visual field.
There are two forms of macular degeneration – dry and wet.
Both forms are the result of dysfunction of the retinal pigment epithelium, which is a layer or cells that nourishes the retina.
The commonest form of macular degeneration is the dry form where photoreceptors slowly die. This is a very slowly progressive condition.
The wet form of macular degeneration is the more devastating form as vision can be lost reasonably quickly. This is characterized by the presence of small blood vessels growing into the retina which may leak fluid or bleed. The treatment for wet macular degeneration involves injection of drugs into the eye. These drugs (Avastin, Lucentis and Eylea) cause these new vessels to regress and stop leaking and bleeding. This often results in stabilization of the vision and in some patients, improvement.
Reducing one’s risk of developing macular degeneration is extremely important. Steps such as cessation of smoking, eating more green, leafy vegetables, nuts and fish, regular exercise and control of one’s blood pressure as well as regular eye checks, are some of the steps which have been found to be useful.
More information about macular degeneration can be obtained from the Macular Degeneration Foundation Australia website. The important thing is to consult your ophthalmologist immediately if you notice any sudden change in your vision or you experience some of the symptoms described earlier.
The Macular Disease Foundation website has lots more information.
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