Macular degeneration

What is macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a condition that typically affects older people, usually over the age of 60. Also called age related macular degeneration (ARMD), it’s the most common cause of blindness for this age group.

Macular degeneration causes a loss of central vision and possible distortion, making straight lines look bent. Letters or numbers may appear jumbled when reading. Peripheral vision usually remains unaffected.

Symptoms of macular degeneration

Depending on the specific form of macular degeneration, symptoms will vary. The most obvious are blurred vision, shadows or missing areas of vision and distorted vision (i.e. straight lines appearing wavy).

Identifying and separating colours can also be difficult, particularly detecting darks from other darks, or light from other lights. Slower adaptation to dark conditions after being exposed to bright lights may also be noticeable.

Macular degeneration won’t lead to absolute overall blindness. However, the loss of central vision involves the most important vision for reading, recognising faces and independent living. So, it’s important to seek attention urgently if you believe you may be suffering from macular degeneration.

Causes of macular degeneration

There are three primary causes of age related macular degeneration:

  • age
  • family history of macular degeneration
  • smoking

There are other possible factors such as exposure to ultra violet light and genetic predispositions.

Managing macular degeneration

The main measures for management of macular degeneration involve prevention and early detection.

  • Prevention. A diet of leafy greens, oily fish and eggs can decrease the risk and rate of progression of macular degeneration. Stopping smoking will have an even greater positive benefit.
  • Early detection. Early detection is important because treatment gives excellent visual results if it’s found early in development. Self-monitoring of your central vision using an Amsler Grid at home is the best way to ensure early detection.

Treating macular degeneration

For more serious forms of macular degeneration, the main treatment is intravitreal injections. These painless injections shrink abnormal blood vessels and dry up the abnormal macular fluid.

Occasionally, photodynamic therapy (PDT) may be required in addition to injection treatments.

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