Macular Degeneration

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Macular Degeneration – Optometrist Hurstville

An Overview of Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in the elderly, and its prevalence is increasing. Around 80 per cent of vision loss in Australia is caused by five conditions, all of which become more common as we get older (in alphabetical order): 

  • Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) 
  • Cataracts 
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Glaucoma
  • Refractive error

And the number is expected to rise. Here’s everything you need to know about macular degeneration and how it affects your vision. 

What exactly is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a condition that affects the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. It is caused by gradual damage to this tissue, which can result in loss of central vision (the ability to see what is in front of you). The macula is located in the centre of your eye and contains photoreceptor cells that help you see clearly at night or in low light conditions. 

The condition affects millions of people worldwide, and there are two types: wet (exudative or neovascular) age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), in which fluid leaks into nearby tissues, and dry (atrophic) ARMD, in which scarring around blood vessels occurs. 

What are the signs and symptoms?

Your central vision may be affected if you have macular degeneration. You may lose side vision and have blurred vision, but you may also see flashes or stars in your field of vision. Floaters are tiny spots or streaks that float across your field of view without moving with them if this happens. 

Other symptoms of macular degeneration include light sensitivity when looking at bright lights (photophobia), halos around objects (halo effect), double vision (diplopia), and blind spots where there was previously clear vision before the condition. 

What are the causes?

Macular degeneration has a wide range of causes. People 50 and older may begin to experience symptoms such as blurred vision, difficulty reading, and nearsightedness—which makes it difficult to see objects up close in the most common form of the condition, known as age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). Other factors that can cause ARMD to include: 

  • Smoking 
  • High blood pressure 
  • High cholesterol levels in your blood or atherosclerosis (hardening) of the arteries that supply oxygenated blood to your brain 
  • Diabetes type 2 or gestational diabetes 

What is the root cause? – Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of macular degeneration (ARMD). Diabetic macular oedema and choroidal neovascularization (CNV) are other names. 

Blood vessels grow inside your retina and can leak fluid when this happens. This causes eye swelling, which can result in vision loss. 

Diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels increase your chances of developing ARMD, but it can happen at any age. People with fair skin are more vulnerable than those with darker skin tones because their darker complexion makes them more susceptible to sunburn. However, this is not the only factor at work! 

How widespread is it?

In the United States, Europe, and Australia, macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness. In New Zealand, it is also the leading cause of blindness. 

There are over 1 million people in these countries alone who have macular degeneration and may go completely blind if they do not receive treatment or care. 

How is it diagnosed?

Our Eyes and Specs optometrist will ask about your symptoms before performing a physical examination. 

The optometrist may examine the back of your eye with a special light called an ophthalmoscope to look for signs of macular degeneration. If you do not have any vision problems, this test is not required for diagnosis. If you have early symptoms of macular degeneration (such as blurriness), this test can help confirm or rule out the diagnosis. 

Other tests are an eye scan (electroretinography) that measures changes in electrical activity in the retina during light wave stimulation; this is done by placing electrodes on top of each open eye to detect any decreased response time from neurons located within the retina—this method is not only effective but also accurate when compared to other methods such as photography alone!

What are the available treatments?

  • Laser surgery/Surgery to implant a telescopic lens 
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Low vision rehabilitation 

Although laser therapy, including photodynamic treatments, is a growing area of research and treatment for macular degeneration, it has yet to be proven safe and effective in clinical trials. 

How can it be avoided?

A healthy diet and regular eye exams are the best ways to prevent macular degeneration. 

  • Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can help lower your risk of developing macular degeneration. A good guideline is to consume at least five servings of fruit or vegetables per day. If you don’t want to consume too much fibre from whole grains (such as oatmeal), try substituting beans or legumes for some of your daily servings. 
  • Get regular eye exams: Maintain regular eye exams to ensure that no changes in the back of your eyes occur before they become visible symptoms of macular degeneration. 
  • Purchase vitamin A supplements: Vitamin A aids in the repair of free radical damage within our bodies. As a result, we must get enough vitamin A from food or supplements. 
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes and using nicotine patches or vaping devices. 

Early treatment can slow its progression

Macular degeneration is a condition that damages the macula, which is the part of your retina that allows you to see clearly. Macular degeneration has no cures and treatments can only slow its progression, but early detection and treatment can help prevent vision loss. 

People with macular degeneration have several treatment options, including laser surgery, drug therapy, nutritional supplements, etc., which can be used in combination or alone, depending on the individual’s needs. Each option has advantages and disadvantages, so it’s critical to discuss your options with your optometrist before deciding on the best treatment plan for you. 

Book an eye test with your Eyes and Specs Optometrist

Macular degeneration is a widespread eye disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Most cases are completely avoidable and treatable with early detection and treatment. The primary symptom of macular degeneration is loss of central vision, which usually begins in one eye and progresses to both eyes over time. If left untreated, it can cause blindness. Although there are many different types of macular degeneration, all involve damage or deterioration of the retina at some point in life (the light-sensitive layer at the back surface of the eye). This damage can cause problems with your central vision, such as distorted images or blind spots in close-up objects like books or newspapers, but it does not always mean you will lose your sight!  Contact us to make an appointment for an eye test.