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What Is Macular Degeneration?

Your eyesight is your most precious possession that impacts on many other senses. Without it, you’d be in the dark ….. literally. So it makes sense to protect it and keep your eyes healthy.

So what is macular degeneration and its effect on your eyesight? The retina is the light sensitive layer at the back of the eye that sends signals to the brain via the optic nerve. The health and effectiveness of the retina can be impacted by macular degeneration, a painless disease that gets progressively worse over time.macular_degeneration_photo_-_courtesy_of_thedoctorstvshow

The disease causes loss of the centre of your vision, affecting the ability to see fine detail and even facial features. If left untreated it can eventually cause blindness. And who wants to do that if you can avoid it?

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision impairment in people aged over 40 years in Australia. It is also referred to as AMD or ARMD.

Activities which rely on the macula functioning well are reading, writing, looking at detailed objects, and colour vision.

What are the symptoms?  It’s easy for the early symptoms of macular degeneration to go unnoticed, or just be dismissed as part of ‘getting older’. But it’s very important to act immediately on any of the following signs (and see your optometrist):

  • difficulty in reading or doing any other activity that requires fine vision
  • distortion where straight lines appear wavy or bent
  • distinguishing faces becomes a problem
  • dark patches of empty spaces appear in the centre of your vision

Who is at risk? Those most at risk of developing AMD are people with a family history of AMD, people over the age of 75 and smokers. It is therefore advisable that if you are over 40 years old, you have your eyes checked every 2 years.

AMD is described as either dry or wet. Dry AMD is the most common and results in a gradual loss of central vision. Wet AMD is rarer and leads to sudden and significant changes in vision. The main treatment for wet AMD is Lucentis injections. The injections aim to reduce the progression of the disease and prevent further loss of vision. In some cases, vision may improve. The desired outcome is to prevent the growth of new abnormal blood vessels in the retina.

There is currently no treatment for dry AMD but treatments are available for wet AMD that are aimed at maintaining the vision for as long as possible.

Some eye doctors recommend vitamin supplements to reduce the progression of dry AMD – particularly zinc, Vitamins C, E and beta carotene.



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