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MACULAR DEGENERATION

ALSO KNOWN AS 'AMD'

WHAT IS MACULA DEGENERATION

Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older. It involves the deterioration of the macula, which is the small central area of the retina that controls visual acuity. The macula’s health is crucial for tasks requiring sharp vision, such as reading, driving, recognising faces, and seeing objects in fine detail.

Macular degeneration is categorised into two types:

  1. Dry (Atrophic) AMD: This is the more common form, accounting for approximately 90% of cases. It occurs when the macula gets thinner with age, and small clumps of protein called drusen grow. Vision loss in dry AMD usually progresses slowly.

  2. Wet (Neovascular) AMD: Though less common, wet AMD is more severe and can lead to faster loss of vision. It happens when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and leak fluid and blood, damaging the macula.

These are the symptoms of Macular Degeneration: 

  • Blurred or reduced central vision in one or both eyes.
  • Difficulty seeing in low light conditions.
  • Visual distortions, such as straight lines appearing wavy or bent.
  • Difficulty recognising faces.
  • A dark, blurry area or whiteout appearing in the center of vision.
  • Color perception changes or dullness.
 
Macular Degeneration is a sinister condition because it can take many years to develop. The Dry form tends to develop slowly and can be picked up early with our 3D OCT Scanner. Our Optometrists are specially trained to operate this machine and as such carefully control the quality of the scans to be able to really examine each layer of the retina in detail. If we’re able to pick up any early signs of macular degeneration, we can then give you specific advise on how to slow the progression as well as reduce risk factors.
Child undergoing eye test at optometrists
Eye Testing

HOW CAN AMD BE TREATED?

Treatment for macular degeneration (AMD) varies depending on whether the condition is in its early stages, its type (dry or wet), and the severity of the vision loss. Here’s an overview of the current treatment approaches: 

While there’s no cure for dry AMD, which is the more common form, certain strategies can help manage the condition and slow its progression:

  • Dietary Supplements: The AREDS2 formula, a combination of antioxidants and zinc, has been shown to slow the progression in people with moderate to advanced stages of the disease. This formula includes vitamins C and E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, and copper.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help manage AMD. This includes a diet rich in leafy greens and fish, regular exercise, not smoking, and managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Low Vision Aids: Devices such as magnifying glasses, special eyeglass lenses, and electronic devices can help those with significant vision loss to maintain independence and quality of life.
  • UV Protection – From 100% UV Blocking Polarised Lenses

 

Wet AMD can progress rapidly, but several treatments are available to slow the loss of vision:

  • Anti-VEGF Therapy: The most common and effective treatment involves injecting medications into the eye that block vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that stimulates the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina. These injections, which may be needed monthly or bimonthly, can slow vision loss and, in some cases, improve vision.
  • Laser Therapy: Laser treatment can sometimes be used to destroy actively growing abnormal blood vessels. A high-energy laser beam is aimed at the vessels to create small burns that seal the leaks.
  • Photodynamic Therapy (PDT): PDT involves injecting a light-sensitive drug into the bloodstream, which is absorbed by the abnormal blood vessels in the eye. A laser is then directed into the eye to activate the drug, destroying the blood vessels without damaging the surrounding tissue.

HOW CAN WE HELP YOU IF YOU HAVE MACULAR DEGENERATION?

For both dry and wet AMD, regular monitoring of vision is crucial. Patients are often advised to use an Amsler grid to check for changes in their central vision. Any new symptoms or changes should be reported to an eye care professional immediately, as early detection of wet AMD and prompt treatment is critical to preserving vision.

It’s important for individuals with macular degeneration to work closely with their eye care professional to determine the most appropriate treatment plan based on their specific condition and needs.

Our approach to this condition is to monitor you more frequently and work with you to help you understand the risk factors, the condition and how it will affect your vision as well as understanding what low vision aids may work for you.

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