Macular degeneration – what you should know
The chances are, 1 in 7 of your family members over 50 years of age will be suffering from Macular Degeneration. How is your macula? Have you had it checked lately?
Here are 5 key points about macular degeneration:
- Vision loss caused by macular degeneration is irreversible
- Early detection is so critical
- Also know as age related macular degeneration or AMD
- Macular degeneration also affects 1 in 7 Australians over the age of 50
- AMD is the main cause of vision impairment and legal blindness in Australian adults*
What is macular degeneration?
This condition affects the macula which is the central part of your retina located at the back of your eye. Most importantly, this part of your retina is responsible for your central, detailed vision. So it allows you to read, recognise faces, drive and see colours clearly. Two main forms of macular degeneration exist: wet and dry.
Causes of macular degeneration
The cause of this condition is not completely clear. However risk factors include UV exposure, ageing and lifestyle factors such as smoking and poor diet.
Central vision often experiences some blurriness or dark spots in cases of AMD. So, this makes you rely on your peripheral vision to identify objects by their shapes.
Some common symptoms and early warning signs include:
- Difficulty reading which cannot be corrected with glasses
- Difficulty identifying colours
- Straight lines appear distorted or bent
- Words or letters merging together when reading
- Central vision appears blurred or blocked by dark empty spaces
A simple at home test using an Amsler Grid can help in the early detection of AMD. This test does not replace a thorough eye examination.
How to use the Amsler Grid
Time needed: 1 minute.
Monitoring your vision at home using an Amsler Grid can help detect Macular Degeneration in it’s early stages, between visits to your Optometrist. This test does not replace a thorough eye examination.
- Wear your normal reading eyewear
Do not remove glasses or contact lenses you normally wear for reading and close vision.
- Position yourself
Stand approximately 30 cm from the grid in a well lit room.
- Test your right eye
Cover your left eye with a cupped hand and focus on the centre dot of the amsler grid with your right eye. If you see wavy, broken or distorted lines, or blurred or missing areas of vision you may be displaying symptoms of AMD. Please contact us immediately.
- Test your left eye
Repeat step 3, this time covering your right eye and using your left eye to focus on the central dot.
- Repeat weekly
It’s important to regularly test your vision so that you know what is normal for you and you can quickly identify changes listed in step 3.
Lost vision cannot be regained. So, early detection of any form of macular disease is crucial. Furthermore, a complete eye health examination provides the opportunity to provide advice about current options for treatment, rehabilitation and support services.
Macular health is diagnosed using detailed testing procedures and a variety of instruments. Of particular importance is our Zeiss HD-OCT machine. Firstly, it provides a detailed 3D image of your macula. It also allows us to visualise all the different cell layers that make up the macula. So we are able to accurately differentiate between different macular conditions.
Once a diagnosis of AMD, or any other macular disease is made, you will be advised on the course of action to take .
Depending on the stage of the disease, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist for further examination, diagnosis and treatment. Furthermore, it is essential to follow the recommendations and attend regular appointments to monitor the disease progress.
There is no known cure for loss of macula function. So early detection is key to slowing the progression of the condition. However, treatments vary according to the type of macular degeneration or macular disease present. Consequently, the ophthalmologist will advise you on the most appropriate treatment for your particular condition.
Reducing your risk
Awareness of macular degeneration and regular eye examinations are important. The Macular Degeneration Foundation suggests the following positive lifestyle steps to reduce the risk of AMD occurring.** These have also been found to slow down the progression of the disease.
- Avoid smoking
- Keep a healthy lifestyle, control your weight and exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fish, green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit and nuts and you should also limit your intake of fats
- In consultation with your doctor, consider taking a zinc and antioxidant supplement**
- Protect your eyes with quality sunglasses providing maximum UV protection, particularly in younger years
If you haven’t had your eyes checked recently or have any concerns or queries about AMD or any other eye health issues, Noosa Optical can assist you. So, for more information on Macular Degeneration contact us today on (07) 5447 3711.
* Source: Macular Degeneration Foundation, ‘The Prevalence of Age-related Maculopathy: The Visual Impairment Project’ Ophthalmology 2000
**Please consult your doctor before undertaking any changes in diet or lifestyle.