What is Macular Degeneration?

What is it?

Macular degeneration is a condition that affects central vision as the delicate tissues in the eye age. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in the developed world. One in seven people over 50 years of age will develop macular degeneration, and while there is a genetic component, age is the biggest risk factor.

What does it do?

In the early or “dry” stage, deposits under the retina distort the central vision which can make things blurry or patchy, or make straight lines look wobbly. If the condition progresses to late stage or “wet” macular degeneration, vision loss can occur suddenly and lead to central blindness due to fluid leakage. The peripheral vision is unaffected.

What is the treatment?

There is no treatment for the early stage of macular degeneration, but certain supplements have been shown to slow progression of the disease. These are known as AREDS supplements and your optometrist may recommend you take them if you have the condition. More recently, a laser treatment performed by ophthalmologists has become available which can also slow the progression. In the later “wet” stage, injections are used to stop the leakage and prevent further loss of vision.

How can I prevent it?

Eating a healthy diet with lots of antioxidant-containing nuts, fruit and vegetables will lower your risk of macular degeneration, as will protecting yourself from the sun. Smoking greatly increases your risk, so stopping smoking will help too. In an eye examination your optometrist will let you know if you have signs of the disease, and what you can do about it.