Macular degeneration occurs when there is gradual damage to the central area of the retina which can eventually lead to loss of central vision.
What is macular degeneration?
Much like a camera, your eye has a lens at the front and a sensor at the back of the eye, the retina. Light focuses on the light-sensitive retina to create an image. This is sent via the optic nerve to the brain. The macula is the central part of the retina which enables us to see fine detail and perform tasks such as reading and driving.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) occurs when there is damage or breakdown of the macula as you age, which can eventually lead to loss of central vision. There are two types of ARMD. The most common form is known as dry ARMD. This is when deposits, called drusen, build up at the macula and leads to gradual thinning of areas of the central retina causing blank areas in vision.
In some cases, dry ARMD can develop into a more aggressive form of the disease called wet ARMD. This is when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macula and can leak fluid or bleed within the retina. This can cause severe vision loss and distorted central vision.
There is no cure for ARMD. However, diet and lifestyle modification (including ceasing smoking), and vitamin supplementation can help to slow the rate at which dry ARMD gets worse. If wet ARMD changes occur, your optometrist can identify this and refer you to an ophthalmologist for urgent treatment.
Patients with ARMD can notice difficulty reading or a black or grey spot in the central vision. These are important symptoms to identify the need to book an eye exam promptly.
We recommend regular comprehensive eye exams to monitor for ARMD, particularly if there is a family history. A non-invasive test called Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) can detect early changes in the macula or monitor existing ARMD to detect fluid leaks early.
For more information: mdnz.org.nz