Macular degeneration

What is macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration includes various conditions that affect the macula. It is an area at the back of your eye and you use it for seeing fine details (such as in the case of reading). As these conditions do not influence your peripheral  (side) vision you will still have the ability to walk around, but you will find it difficult to perform certain tasks like reading or watching television.

This eye condition usually happens when the macula at the back of the eye becomes damaged, making it harder to see fine details. Normally it occurs as you get older, although some younger people may also have macular degeneration due to a genetic condition, but it is less common than age-related MD.

 

What can I do to prevent age-related macular degeneration?

Quitting smoking might decrease the possibility of developing this eye condition, as this habit is the major known risk factor of age-related MD. Eating a lot of oily fish, coloured fruit, and vegetables is also recommended, moreover some supplements such as Icaps or Macushield may also help. You are at a higher risk of developing MD if somebody in your family has had this condition, furthermore obesity and having blue eyes might also be connected to the condition. Exposure to ultraviolet light is also believed to be a risk factor, moreover it is more common in Caucasians and women.

 

What happens if I have macular degeneration?

It is possible to develop two different types of AMD: dry and wet macular degeneration. Dry MD is more common than the latter, and it normally happens slowly. In this case yellow deposits build up behind the macula. Presently no treatment is available for this variant. However, your vision can be improved by magnifiers which your optometrist can advise you on.

Wet MD occurs when abnormal blood vessels appear behind the macula and they leak fluid. There are several symptoms which can indicate that you may have developed wet MD: your vision is suddenly distorted and straight lines appear to be wavy, or you have a blank spot in the centre of your vision. If you notice any of these you need to see your optometrist straight away. This condition can be treated if it is recognized early, normally by injecting a drug into the gel inside your eye.

You can test it by the Amsler chart (a grid of squares printed on paper) if you might have macular degeneration.

The Amsler test

  • Look at the chart about 30cm (12 inches).
  • If you wear reading glasses or contact lenses, use them for the test, but do not wear varifocals or distance glasses.
  • Cover one eye, and look at the black dot in the middle.
  • Now check the other eye.
  • If you notice wavy, broken or missing lines, you should contact your optometrist immediately.

 

Does MD lead to blindness?

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in the UK. However, many people with this condition are able to walk around by using their side vision, but they may not be capable of reading without a magnifier anymore.