Macular degeneration is a cause of irreversible reduced vision and usually affects people over the age of 55 years.
The macula is the part of the retina we use to look straight at something. This provides us with our clear central vision for reading or to recognise faces. Macular degeneration (MD) is damage to the macula. There are two types of macular degeneration and these are known as wet MD and dry MD. Wet MD has abnormal blood vessels that cause bleeding or swelling at the macula ie. the macula thickens. Dry MD leads to a loss of tissue and the macula thins. When macular degeneration occurs people find that the centre of their vision is blurred.
Dry macular degeneration usually occurs slowly and the decline in vision is gradual.
Wet macular degeneration is due to leaky blood vessels and these can cause a rapid deterioration vision.
What are the symptoms of a macular degeneration?
Dry MD symptoms include:
- Adjusting to dim light takes longer
- Increased blur when reading
- More light being needed when reading or doing close work
- Reduced intensity or brightness of colours
- Difficulty recognising faces
Wet MD symptoms include:
- Distortion of straight lines
- Distortion of printed words
How is macular degeneration diagnosed?
The diagnosis of macular degeneration is usually made by a thorough clinical examination and investigations. The tests include the optical coherence tomography (OCT – Zeiss cirrus HD-OCT 5000) and fluorescein angiogram.
What is the treatment for dry macular degeneration?
Unfortunately there is currently no treatment for dry macular degeneration. The general advice is to eat a healthy diet that includes green leafy vegetables and fish twice a week. Also people should not smoke.
What is the treatment for wet macular degeneration?
Wet macular degeneration is treated with injections into the eye. The OCT or fluorescein angiogram are required to get permission from the government to commence these injections. The injections are performed every four weeks until the wet macular degeneration is under control. Then the interval between injections can be extended. The interval between injections can be anything from 4 to 12 weeks. The injections are ongoing as the condition will return and so the current recommendation is to stay on a maintenance program
Patients have the injections in the clinic using a sterile technique. We go to great lengths to minimise the pain.
How to do people cope with poor vision?
Initially people may only have to use increased lighting when trying to read. There are many low vision aids available such as magnifying glasses and computerised magnifying systems. A number of groups are involved in supplying low vision aides. The smart phone can been helpful because people can use the low vision functions. These include a built in magnifier and voice activated phone calls.
Below are resources for low vision aids.
Macular Degeneration Foundation-1800111709 www.mdfoundation.com.au
Vision Australia-1300847466 www.visionaustralia.org.au
Guide Dogs Australia -1800 484 333