Information About Macula Degeneration
Macular degeneration (MD) covers a number of conditions which affect the macula. The macula is the part of your retina that is important for sharp central vision. Damage to the macula affects your ability to do certain tasks such as reading, watching television and seeing peoples faces. But it does not affect your ability to walk around as your side vision is not affected.
What are the symptoms of macula degeneration (MD)?
Typically one of the most common symptoms of MD is noticing that straight lines appear wavy or that there are patches missing from your vision. This can happen in just one eye, so it is important to regularly check the vison in both eyes separately. You can do this by looking with each eye separately at the straight lines on a door or window frame. If you notice the lines are distorted or there are missing patches, you should see your optometrist straight away. Sometimes a small grid of lines in a squared pattern (Amsler Grid) is issued by your Optometrist or local eye hospital. This can then be checked weekly as an alternative way to look for wavy lines.
Who is at risk of Macula Degeneration?
Although some younger people can have MD through a genetic condition, the most common forms of MD happen more as you get older. This is known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Around one in 10 people aged 65 or over show some signs of AMD. There can be a genetic element for AMD also. Smoking is a major risk factor for developing late AMD. Along with being obese, having high blood pressure and a poor diet, especially with high saturated fats. Prolonged exposure to UV light is thought to contribute to AMD. So UV absorbing sunglasses are recommended when outdoors for long periods.
Can I do anything to protect myself from Macula Degeneration?
Some clinical trials have shown a healthy diet including green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach support good eye health. Various supplements are widely available claiming to be beneficial for eye health, typically containing Lutein. Lutein is an antioxidant nutrient important for good macula health. Although irrefutable evidence is not available to support diet and vitamin supplementation, it is thought to be beneficial and worth discussing further with your Optometrist. Smoking, poor diet, obesity and high blood pressure are risk factors for AMD. Therefore changes in this regard will benefit you, if relevant. Finally, try to remember to wear sunglasses when out in sunlight as prolonged UV exposure has been linked to causing macula damage.
Can Macula Degeneration be treated?
If we exclude the rarer genetic macula degenerations which affect the younger population, there are basically two types of AMD – Wet and Dry AMD.
Dry AMD is basically wear and tear at the back of the eye linked to ageing. Visual loss tends to be gradual (over years) but currently cannot be treated. There are new developments on the horizon involving stem cells and gene therapy to treat Dry AMD. But we are still some time away from this being available.
Wet AMD is where blood vessels have become weakened and leak within the macula. Causing a lot of damage to the retinal cells in a relatively short space of time ( weeks to months). This condition is much more aggressive than Dry AMD; however it can be treated. A special drug is injected into the gel inside your eye to stop the blood vessels leaking. This treatment is carried out at the eye hospital and needs to be repeated regularly every few weeks. The treatment itself is not a cure but is very successful at stabilising the eyes and preventing further visual loss. Early detection is essential as any damage that has occurred already cannot be undone but further damage can be prevented.
How do I know if I have Dry or Wet AMD?
Regular examinations with your Optometrist is essential. During an examination we can compare your previous vision against your current vision to look for changes. We will also assess the macula with a microscope and if indicated some practitioners can scan the layers of the macula with OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography). OCT is like an MRI scan and allows us to differentiate between Wet and Dry AMD. Also allowing us to pick up Wet AMD at an earlier stage. It is also very useful to monitor previous dry AMD as this can convert to Wet at a later stage.
Please Note: Focus Medical Eye Centre can offer full OCT scanning and one of their Optometrists Anthony Bahadur is an AMD specialist Optometrist who works part time for the local eye hospital.
Is there anything else to help if I have Macula Degeneration?
If you find you are struggling to see things because of poor vision, you can ask your optometrist for details of your local low-vision service. This is a service often run at the hospital where you can try various magnifying aids to improve your vision in certain situations. If something is helpful it can be loaned to you. Furthermore, advice and support will be given regarding local charities and associations. The RNIB (Royal National Institute of the Blind) can also give you advice on the help that is available. Visit rnib.org.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone the RNIB helpline on 0303 123 9999.
Please Note: We also offer a full private Low Vision Assessment at Focus Medical Eye Centre and carry a large range of various magnifying low vision aids from hand held magnifiers through to telescopes and digital imaging systems.
Can your team look after me if I did not want to go to the eye hospital?
We work in conjunction with Mr Kashani who is a Consultant Ophthalmologist who specialises in Macula Degeneration. He offers private appointments from Focus Medical Eye Centre upon request. He is able to fully manage your AMD including Wet treatment (although the actual injections will still be carried out within the hospital).
For further information about all the eye services we offer at Focus Medical Eye Centre please call us on 01323 442062.