The macula is the name given to the area of the retina, or camera film of the eye, responsible for your central vision. Your central vision is your sharpest or clearest vision, allowing you to see fine details. Without this sharp central vision you can’t read, see the expressions on someone else’s face or drive a car.
Macular degeneration is a painless and slowly progressive disease that commonly affects people over the age of 60. There are two different forms of age-related macular degeneration (AMRD): dry and wet.
Dry age-related macular degeneration is the most common form and accounts for 90 per cent of cases. Small yellow clumps or deposits, known as ‘drusen’, can be seen under the retina. Initially, they don’t interfere significantly with your vision, but over time they may enlarge in size and more may develop.
Wet age-related macular degeneration is less common, approximately 10 per cent of cases. It occurs when new blood vessels grow into areas of dry ARMD. These blood vessels are fragile and leak fluid or bleed. The vision loss this causes may be rapid and severe. You may notice that a central area in your vision becomes blurred, called a ‘central scotoma’, or that straight lines, like a door frame, are bent or wavy, called ‘metamorphopsia’.
Risk factors for the development of ARMD include: increasing age, family history of ARMD and smoking.
To reduce your risk of developing ARMD or slow down the progression of dry ARMD:stop smoking
- eat a diet rich in dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale), fruits (blueberries) and vegetables (corn)
- ensure adequate intake of Omega rich foods, such as fish
- control cardiovascular disease risk factors – blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity
- consider macular vitamin supplementation in consultation with your ophthalmologist.
It’s also important to test your central vision regularly using an Amsler grid (download one from this website) and to have an annual specialist eye check.
Newer treatments for wet ARMD are now available. They work by blocking the signal or molecule, called ‘vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)’, which is stimulating the new blood vessels to grow. There are three main anti-VEGF drugs available: Lucentis (Ranibizumab), Eyelea (Alflibercept) and Avastin (Bevacizumab). They are injected into the eye using a very fine needle.