What is macular degeneration?
The macula is the area at the centre of the retina responsible for detailed vision and most colour vision. It is essential for activities that require fine vision such as the ability to read or recognise faces.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a chronic degenerative retinal eye disease that affects the central area of vision. Usually the peripheral or side vision is undisturbed. The majority of patients will not become totally blind from AMD.
Approximately 1 in 7 Australians over the age of 50 has some evidence of macular degeneration. Approximately 17% of these people will experience significant vision impairment.
What are the types?
Broadly speaking, there are 2 types of AMD:
- Dry Macular Degeneration, generally slowly progressive.
- Wet Macular Degeneration, where blood vessels underneath the retina grow in an uncontrolled fashion. This is termed choroidal neovascularisation. These blood vessels are fragile and can leak fluid and blood into the surrounding tissue.
Macular degeneration results from a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors. These include age, family history, smoking and diet.
How can macular degeneration be prevented?
Research has demonstrated that diet is important when treating macular degeneration and the correct diet can help slow its progression. Occasionally, dietary supplements can be recommended.
For the wet form of macular degeneration, anti-VEGF drugs are often prescribed. These are administered via a direct injection into the back of the eye. Often multiple injections over several years are required. Generally, the injections are not a cure but will stabilise vision and in some patients, they can improve vision. In most cases, the injection process is fairly straightforward with minimal discomfort and is administered in the rooms.
Patients should monitor their vision regularly with an Amsler grid. For more information also visit Macular Degeration Foundation Australia.