WHAT IS MACULAR DISEASE?
Many Australians are at risk of vision loss but don’t know it. If you’re 50+, you’re living with diabetes or have a family member with age-related macular degeneration, you have a greater risk of macular disease.
The macula is a very small part of the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The macula allows us to see fine detail and colours and is responsible for the detailed sharp vision that is used for reading, recognising faces and driving. Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is the name given to a group of degenerative retinal eye diseases that cause progressive loss of central vision, leaving the peripheral (side) vision intact. It is the leading cause of legal blindness and severe vision loss in Australia. The early detection of macular degeneration is crucial to saving sight. In its early stages macular degeneration may not result in noticeable visual symptoms, but it can be detected during an eye examination with your optometrist. The earlier that macular degeneration is detected, the better the outcome as steps can be undertaken to help slow its progression and preserve sight through treatment and lifestyle modifications.
How does AMD affect vision?
As AMD damages the part of the retina responsible for central vision and for seeing fine detail, it becomes difficult to see small details of objects. Vision to the sides is not affected. If both eyes are affected, reading and other tasks requiring fine vision may become very difficult. AMD does not cause blindness. Because some side vision remains, usually people can still take care of themselves.
What causes AMD?
AMD is the result of ageing processes in the eye. Some of the layers of the retina thicken and waste material which is usually removed from the retina forms deposits, distorting the retina. This distortion can cause damage to the other layers of the retina. In about 10 per cent of cases, new blood vessels grow into the macula from beneath. These newly-formed vessels are fragile and often leak blood into the retina where it causes scar tissue to form. The scarring blocks out central vision to a severe degree. There are also some other forms of macular degeneration which are inherited and not associated with ageing.