what is macula degeneration?

Macula degeneration is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia.

The macula is the central part of the retina (the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye).  It is responsible for your ability to read, recognise faces, drive and see colours clearly. You are reading these words using your macula. Macula degeneration causes progressive damage resulting in loss of central vision without affecting your peripheral vision.

how common is macula degeneration?

One in seven Australians over the age of 50 years (1.25 million people) has some evidence of the disease and the incidence increases with age.

what are the types of macula degeneration?

There are two types. The dry form results in a gradual loss of central vision. The wet form is characterised by a sudden loss of vision and is caused by abnormal blood vessels growing under the retina. Immediate medical treatment is essential if symptoms occur.

what are the risk factors?

Age:  The risk increases significantly with age.

Family history:  There is a 50% risk if a direct family history is present.

Smoking:  There is three to four times the risk if you smoke.

what treatments are available for macula degeneration?

Treatment options are dependent on the stage and type of the disease. Current treatments for the wet form of the disease have been shown to be highly effective in saving sight. However, early detection and diagnosis by one of our optoMED optometrists followed by timely treatment is critical.

key symptoms may include one of more of the following:

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

The need for increased illumination, sensitivity to glare, decreased night vision and por colour sensitivity may also indicate that there is something wrong. If you experience any of these symptoms contact optoMED immediately.

early detection is vital

The early detection of any form of macula degeneration is crucial to save sight. Difficulty with your vision should not be dismissed as just a part of “getting older”, In its early stages macula degeneration may not be noticed but it can be detected in an eye examination before any visual symptoms appear.

eye health checklist

  • have an eye examination and make sure the macula is checked
  • don’t smoke
  • keep a healthy lifestyle, control weight and exercise regularly
  • eat a healthy, well balanced diet. Eat fish two to three times a week, dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit  daily, and a handful of nuts a week. Choose low glycemic index carbohydrates. Limit the intake of fats.
  • provide adequate protection for your eyes from sunlight exposure and blue light from digital devices, even when young.

Consideration can be given to an appropriate supplement in some people, in consultation with your optometrist at optoMED.

the amsler grid

The Amsler Grid should be used regularly to test for changes in your vision and symptoms of macula degeneration. It should not be depended on for diagnosis.

  1. do not remove glasses or contact lenses normally used for reading
  2. hold grid at normal reading distance in a well lit room
  3. fully cover one eye and focus on the centre dot with the uncovered eye
  4. repeat with the other eye
  5. contact optoMED urgently if you notice any changes in your vision

If the grid lines are wavy , broken or distorted, or if there are blurred or missing patches, this may be a symptom of macula degeneration.

Please make an appointment for a macula checkup and a free magnetic Amsler Grid chart for your fridge.

More information can be found at the Macula Disease Foundation.