At the end of May is Macular Degeneration Awareness week and at Envision Optical we are concentrating our eye health awareness message on this very common sight threatening disease. Our Gold Coast based Optometrists are experts in vision and eye care and the detection of eye disease, and macular degeneration is something we screen for in every comprehensive eye exam.
So what is macular degeneration? Macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in Australia. It blurs the sharp, central, fine detail vision that you need for “straight-ahead” viewing. AMD affects the macula, the central area of the retina at the back of your eye that allows us to see fine details. AMD mainly affects older people: 4%>40yrs, 9%>50yrs, 23%>65yrs, 31%>80 yrs have some form of AMD.
The causes are still not fully understood, however a lifetime of exposure to UV light, poor diet, production of free radicals and reduced blood flow to the retina may result in abnormal changes in the thin pigmented layer called the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) There are two categories of AMD:
- DRY: In the early stages there is an accumulation of yellowish deposits called drusen, as well as a loss of pigment cells in the RPE. This may progress with greater areas of pigment degeneration and scarring. This will result in greater blur in the central vision. 90% of AMD is the dry form
- WET: This occurs when abnormal blood vessels under the retina start to grow up through the retina and the breaks in the pigment layer. These new blood vessels are weak and porous and tend to leak and bleed quite easily. This can result in fluid build up and swelling, as well as bleeding (hence WET). In this case damage to the macula and loss of vision can be very rapid. If not treated promptly, the fluid can leave significant scars which result in permanent severe loss of central vision.
The most common symptom is blurred vision. In the wet form an early sign is that straight lines appear wavy. If you’re over 50 and having trouble seeing clearly, you must be checked to rule out macular degeneration. In the earliest stages you won’t necessarily have any visual symptoms and these minor signs are only detectable through a comprehensive eye exam.
So there’s an introduction to macular degeneration. Over the next few weeks I’ll discuss how we detect the disease, what treatment options are available, and the significant impact diet and nutrition can play in preventing progression of the disease. Stay tuned!