The macula is the small central portion of the retina. It allows us to focus, read, drive, recognise faces or colours and see objects in fine detail. When the macula's function becomes impaired or degenerates, it is known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). There are two types of macular degeneration: wet and dry. Both forms can lead to decreased central vision. The dry form is characterised by gradual degradation of the photoreceptors. The wet form of macular degeneration is characterised by abnormal blood vessels, which can decrease central vision more rapidly than the dry form.
The following symptoms may be a sign of macular degeneration:
- Darkness or blurriness in the centre of vision
- Difficulty reading fine print
- Decreased quality of vision
- Difficulty driving
- Diminished colour perception
WHAT CAUSES MACULAR DEGENERATION?
As the name suggests, age-related macular degeneration is more common in adults over the age of 60. It is unknown what causes macular degeneration, but it is believed to have both environmental and hereditary causes. Those who have a light eye colour, are obese, smokers, have high blood pressure or cholesterol levels, are at a higher risk of developing macular degeneration. If left untreated, macular degeneration may lead to significant visual disability. .
HOW IS MACULAR DEGENERATION DIAGNOSED?
Your ophthalmologist will be able to diagnose age-related macular degeneration during a routine eye exam. You may be given eye drops to dilate your eye so the retina can be examined for the presence of yellow deposits. This is usually an indication of macular degeneration. You may be asked to look at an Amsler grid to test for defects in the centre of your vision. Other tests such as fluorescein angiography may be done to identify abnormal blood vessels and the type of macular degeneration using a dye injected into the bloodstream.
HOW IS MACULAR DEGENERATION TREATED?
Although there is no cure for macular degeneration, treatment is aimed at slowing the progression of the disease and preventing severe vision loss. For dry macular degeneration (the more common of the two types) your ophthalmologist may advise a specific vitamin supplementation to help delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration. For wet macular degeneration, injections have been found to limit its progression. Your eye specialists at the Melrose House Eye Specialists will discuss your treatment options with you.