What is macula degeneration?
Macula degeneration is a group of diseases that causes painless, progressive loss of central vision. Macula degeneration is the leading cause of blindless blindness in Australia, responsible for over 50% of cases. It occurs when there is an accumulation of waste at the macula produced by the retina. The macula is the very centre of the retina and is responsible for your central, detailed vision. In fact, you are using your macula right now to read this!
There are two main types of macular degeneration: dry AMD and wet AMD.
The dry type accounts for most cases of AMD. It is characterised by an accumulation of small yellow deposits under the retina called ‘drusen’. Changes are usually slow, and the yellow spots can sometimes progress into larger ones over time and cause vision loss. Dry AMD can also progress to wet AMD.
Wet AMD is the more severe type of macular degeneration. It can result in rapid vision loss following growth of abnormal new blood vessels under the retina. Fluid leaks from these vessels causing damage the macula area.
Symptoms of Macula Degeneration can include:
- Distortions/waviness of straight lines
- Dark patches in the centre of your vision
- Facial features can become hard to distinguish and people can be hard to recognise
- Difficulty reading or doing activities which require fine vision
Unfortunately there is no cure for macular degeneration.
If it is discovered early, appropriate lifestyle adjustments can be made which can help minimise the risk of progression of macula degeneration. These include: Wearing sunglasses with UV protection, smoking cessation, vitamin supplements and eating a healthy diet that includes colourful vegetables, nuts and oily fish.
Medical treatment in the form of laser and/or injections can be given for a certain type of macula degeneration (known as wet macula degeneration). However, this only stabilises and maintains vision for as long as possible, it does not cure the disease.
An Amsler chart is an important tool to monitor changes in your vision. This chart looks like an even grid with a dot in the middle. If you have been given a chart by your optometrist or eye specialist, all the lines in the grid should be straight, and none of the lines should be missing or distorted. If they are, make sure you see an optometrist immediately!
You can check your risk here by taking a short quiz.
At Westmead Eyes we can examine the macula area, and monitor any changes using retinal photography and OCT scan technology. To make an appointment call us on (02) 9635 8464 OR 04988 OPTOM or book online.