macular degeneration icon

macular degenration

A leading cause of vision loss in people over 50 years old.

Image showing the impact of macular degeneration

Age-related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is a leading cause of severe vision loss in people aged 50 years or older. The macula is a small area of the retina at the back of the eye and is responsible for sharp central vision, allowing people to read and see fine details. AMRD is when the macula becomes damaged. As ARMD progresses further, central vision can become severely affected making reading impossible.

What are the causes of macular degeneration?

Age is the biggest factor contributing to the onset of ARMD. Most ARMD cases occur after age 50 although ARMD can sometimes occur at younger ages. Additional risk factors that contribute include smoking and family history of ARMD.

What are the symptoms of macular degeneration?

Symptoms experienced can be different for all people with ARMD. Often people hardly notice ARMD in its early stages. Typically, symptoms will present themselves as:

  • Blurred, jumping or missing words/letters on a page
  • Dark or empty areas appear in your central vision
  • Straight lines appear distorted or wavy

What are the types of macular degeneration?

Dry ARMD (Non-Neovascular)

This is the most common type of ARMD. Early in dry ARMD, vision is often normal, and the diagnosis is made by the presence of drusen seen by an ophthalmologist. As the disease progresses, gradual vision loss can occur and when severe, dry ARMD can cause severe central vision loss.

Wet ARMD (Neovascular = New Vessels)

This is the less common (but more aggressive) form of ARMD. If untreated, wet ARMD often leads to severe vision loss. Wet ARMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels break through the retina and leak fluid or blood. This leakage can lead to rapid and irreversible damage to the macula.

How is macular degeneration diagnosed?

Many people do not realise that they have a macular problem until symptoms become problematic. Your eye doctor can use a range of useful diagnostic tools that help detect the early stages of ARMD before you experience any obvious changes.

Amsler Grid

This is a simple vision test that involves a small piece of graph paper testing one eye at a time. It identifies changes in your central vision that may cause the lines in the grid to disappear or appear wavy; this is a sign of ARMD.

Fluorescein Angiography

This procedure is used to determine whether you have the beginning of Wet ARMD. A small amount of yellow fluorescent dye (Fluorescein) is injected into a vein in your hand or arm where it enters the bloodstream and travels towards the eye. Once at the eye, it highlights the blood vessels in the retina so they can be photographed. Your eye doctor will continue to take pictures as the fluorescein circulates throughout the vessels to pinpoint specific areas of new vessel growth and leakage.

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)

OCT is an imaging system allowing your eye doctor to achieve high-resolution, clearly detailed images of retinal tissues and structures. It helps your eye doctor evaluate the health of the macula in great detail. Our powerful OCT 5000 can detect drusen, the earliest signs of ARMD. Besides detecting drusen, our OCT utilises the new AngioPlex algorithm to show abnormal blood vessels hiding underneath the fluid leaking into the macula.

Dilated Eye Exam

Your ophthalmologist will place drops in your eyes to enlarge the pupils. This provides a bigger window for your eye doctor to look through and comprehensively examine the back of your eye using a special magnifying lens.

How do I prevent macular degeneration?

Avoid smoking, exercise regularly, maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, eat a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables, nuts & fish.

What are the treatment options for macular degeneration?

Many people do not realise that they have a macular problem until symptoms become problematic. Your eye doctor can use a range of useful diagnostic tools that help detect the early stages of ARMD before you experience any obvious changes.

Diet

A well-balanced diet is important for macular health.  It is important to have a diet rich in green leafy vegetables and fish.

Nutritional Supplements

Nutritional supplements are a common form of treatment for dry ARMD. They consist of antioxidant vitamin supplements that may reduce the progression of dry ARMD. A large scientific study found that people at risk for developing advanced stages of ARMD lowered their risk of progression when treated with a high-dose of:

  • Beta Carotene (15 mg)
  • Copper (2 mg)
  • Vitamin C (500 mg)
  • Vitamin E (400 IU)
  • Zinc (80 mg)

Anti-VEGF Injections

Anti-VEGF injections are used to treat wet ARMD. They were introduced into practice in the mid-2000’s and their use has revolutionised the treatment of wet ARMD around the world.

The medicine is injected into the eye to stop new blood vessel growth and leakage in the retina. In wet ARMD there is an abnormally high level of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) protein secreted by the abnormal new vessels and this promotes further growth of abnormal blood vessels. Anti-VEGF injections block this new growth by targeting, and blocking, the VEGF protein.

The goal of treatment is to dry out the fluid between the retinal layers at the macula thereby leading to stabilisation and improvement of vision.

For a diagnosis and to discuss treatment options of any eye condition, please make an appointment.