Are you age 50 and up?

Do you smoke?

Do you have a family history of macular degeneration?

Are you experiencing reduced vision?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, please read on. <–cursive? 😀

Macular Degeneration (MD) is Australia’s leading cause of irreversible blindness.

What does this mean for you?

How We See

When light rays enter the eye through the cornea, pupil and lens, these light rays are focused on the retina, a light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. The retina converts the light rays to electrical signals, which are sent by the optic nerve to the brain. The brain interprets these signals as the images we see.

The Macula

The retina has two areas: the macula (a small area at the center of the retina that gives you your fine, pinpoint vision and allows you to see detail clearly) and the peripheral retina (the large area surrounding the macula, responsible for your peripheral or side vision).
The macula allows you to read, drive, recognise faces, see colours and perform all activities that require fine, detailed vision.

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is caused by deterioration of the macula. When the cells of the macula deteriorate, images are not received correctly.

In its early stages, macular degeneration does not affect vision, but as it progresses, one may notice visual symptoms like wavy or blurred vision. As the condition worsens, central vision may be completely lost. However, peripheral vision is not affected.

Macular degeneration is a painless but progressive eye condition that causes loss of central vision, usually in both eyes. Thus, regular eye exams are important as the earlier MD is detected, the better the visual outcome.

Was it ages since your last eye check? Book an appointment now!

Two Types of Macular Degeneration: Dry and Wet

Dry Macular Degeneration is characterised by accumulation of debris under the retina called drusen. Overtime, this accumulation could lead to scarring or thinning of the retina. Dry MD is the most common type of MD, develops more slowly, is less severe, with no associated leakage. But it can progress to wet macular degeneration.

Wet macular degeneration happens when abnormal and leaky blood vessels begin to grow into the retina and cause swelling or bleeding into the retina. As fluid is leaked, wet MD may cause gradual or sudden loss of vision. Wet MD may develop in patients with the dry form of MD. Wet MD is less common, develops rapidly, and is more severe.

Symptoms You May Experience That Suggest MD

  • Difficulty reading or performing tasks that require fine vision no longer correctable with glasses
  • Distortions of the appearance of straight lines where they look wavy or bent
  • Difficulty distinguishing faces
  • Dark patches or empty spaces  in the centre of your vision
  • A sudden drop in your vision. You will need to see your optometrist immediately if this develops.

Environmental and Genetic Factors Increase the Risk of Developing MD

These include:

Age: 1 in 7 people over the age of 50 develop MD and the likelihood of developing it increases with age

Family History: There is a 4x higher risk of developing MD if a close relative has it

Smoking increases the risk of developing MD by 3x! It is the biggest risk factor you have control over

Excessive Sun Exposure Not wearing appropriate eye protection (e.g. sunglasses) can speed the development of MD

Diet and Obesity: Diets low in antioxidants and/or green vegetables can increase the risk of MD

Our optometrists often diagnose MD for the first time during a routine, comprehensive eye exam which may involve Dilating Eye Drops. These drops allow for a better view of the retina. However, we advise you not to drive for a couple of hours after they’ve been put.

Here’s how a dilated eye exam works:

Important Tests to Aid in Diagnosing MD

  • Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is now routinely performed on patients with MD as it produces cross-sectional images of the retina to allow us to detect subtle damage in early to late MD.
  • Amsler Grid is a very simple test that can be done at home to monitor for any change.  There is also an Amsler Grid Eye Test app available for free download via the app store. Download HERE.

Presently there is no known cure for macular degeneration, but you can do some things to lower your risk. If you have early macular degeneration, there are ways to help slow down its progression and prevent blindness.

Defense Against MD

  • Early detection of MD is crucial as some forms of the disease may be arrested with early treatment.
  • Regular eye examinations are the key to early detection before vision loss occurs.
  • Eat a healthy diet. (See more details below).
  • Consider taking a zinc and anti-oxidant supplement.
  • Eye protection against UV damage. This is especially important before MD develops.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and get some regular exercise (minimum of a 30 minute walk, three times a week).
  • Don’t smoke.

Diet and MD

Diet can help with good eye health and there is a recommended eating program that can lower the risk of Macular Degeneration. Scientific studies have shown that MD responds to anti-oxidants and other nutrients. This is not an unpleasant diet, but simply emphasizes the benefits of vegetables, fruit and fish.

Anti-oxidants benefit our health by neutralisng “free radicals” in the body. The most important anti-oxidants are:

  • Lutein – Found in especially high levels in leafy dark green vegetables (e.g., spinach)
  • Vitamin C – Found in citrus fruits, papaya and rockmelon or vegetables like capsicum, peas and broccoli.
  • Vitamin E – Found in nuts (almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts), whole grains, leafy green vegetables, broccoli and carrots.
  • Zinc – Found in meat, seafood (especially oysters), nuts (cashews, pine nuts, brazil nuts, pecans, almonds) and whole grains.

Eat a healthy well-balanced diet. Include fish at least two times a week and include dark green leafy vegetables. Eat fresh fruit every day, a handful of nuts each week. Avoid fatty foods.

When was your last eye exam? Let our optometrist check your macula today.