Macular Degeneration

Typical appearance of macular degeneration. Note the yellow spots called drusen around the macular – the centre of the retina (and the centre of this photo).

Macular degeneration is the commonest cause of legal blindness in the western world. Macular degeneration is usually an age related condition where the cells in the macular, the central area of the retina that are needed for all detailed vision, begin to degenerate. This is usually caused by faulty blood supply to this area.

The major causes are old age, genetic disposition,  smoking and poor diet. We don’t have control of our age and our genetics but we can modify our lifestyles. Smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise all lead to damage to the small blood vessels that feed the macula area, in short anything that is bad for your heart and blood vessels will be bad for your macula.

Until recently there was little effective treatment that could be done for macular degeneration, but now there are new drugs and sometimes laser treatments that can make significant improvements to the condition, more treatments are in the research phase.

Macular degeneration is usually divided into 2 basic types, wet and dry:

The dry type is usually slow to develop and vision deteriorates over a period of  many years, there is no treatment for this yet.

The wet type involves sudden leakages of blood or fluid and causes severe and rapid vision loss if untreated. The upside is that in many cases it will respond well to treatment but early detection is vital both from regular eye examinations and paying attention to the visual changes in one eye at a time. In other words we recommend at least 2 yearly eye examinations (more often if you have risk factors) and to check each eye once a week by covering the eyes one at a time. If there appears to be a sudden deterioration in either eye or distortion (for example lines of words appear wavy) or a black or red spot obscuring vision then call us or otherwise seek urgent attention.