What is Macular Degeneration?

Catherine McCarthy

Author

Catherine McCarthy

B.Optom(RAU)
M.C.Optom(UK)

Macular degeneration is also known as Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), because of the prevalence of the condition in older people. But what exactly is it and what can you do about it?

AMD causes loss of central vision, this for example would affect reading and near tasks and eventually if it is bad enough, driving.

There is also a strong genetic link with AMD and it is more prevalent in people who have a family history of the condition, with white ancestry, who have blue eyes and are over the age of 50. These are not exclusive criteria.

The risk of developing AMD also increases substantially when people smoke, eat badly, are exposed to above normal levels of Ultra violet sunlight and have hypertension and/or high cholesterol.

There are two types of AMD; the wet type and the dry type.

Dry Macular Degeneration

90% of all AMD is dry. It is a slow progressive disease, but can turn into wet at any time. This is why people should use an Amsler Grid test (See image below) at home regularly to see if there is any progression of the disease. It is also very important to control hypertension and high cholesterol, as well as stay at a healthy weight. Eating habits can have an influence on AMD, therefore it is very important to eat lots of spinach, broccoli and yellow and red peppers that are rich in Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Selenium. Your doctor or optometrist can also prescribe certain vitamins that contain these compounds. Also wearing a quality pair of sunglasses will help to protect the macula.

Wet Macular Degeneration

10% of AMD is wet. Wet AMD can progress very quickly into a very serious blinding condition if not treated by anti-vegF injections into the eye by an Ophthalmologist. The treatment for wet AMD is regular injections into the eye. There are 2 types of injections that are often used. They are called Avastin and Lucentis injections. These will help slow the progression of the AMD and may even improve vision in certain patients. Keep in mind that there is no cure for AMD yet.

Above illustrates what is seen in the back of the eye when macular degeneration develops and the grid called an Amsler grid is used to help diagnoses and self-monitor the development of AMD. If the lines of the grid appear wavy or tilted or there are patches of “missing lines”, then you’ll be referred to an ophthalmologist for a scan and assessment.

CATHERINE ROSEWALL-MCCARTHY

B.Optom(RAU) M.C.Optom(UK)

What is Macular Degeneration?

If you have further questions about this topic, or feel that you need to discuss your personal situation with a professional optometrist, please contact us so we can assist you further.

LARA JOSEPH

B.Optom(RAU)