Macular Degeneration

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a disease which causes progressive loss of central vision.

When we look directly at something, we are using our central vision. Our peripheral vision only sees rough shapes and movement so we know where we are and what is around us. To read a book or see a street sign we have to look straight at the object and use our central vision. It is this fine central vision which is slowly reduced in macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration is progressive, meaning that it gets worse with time, and it usually affects both eyes. Even people with the worst forms of macular degeneration do not ever become blind, as even they do not lose their peripheral vision. This means they can always walk around without walking into things and they know where they are going. The problem is that they cannot see any detailed objects.

Treatment for macular degeneration

Until recently, there has been no effective treatment for macular degeneration. Recent advances have allowed certain forms of macular degeneration – wet macular degeneration – to be treated. Dry macular degeneration is still untreatable but luckily it usually progresses slowly.

As there is now treatment for some forms of macular degeneration, it is important that all cases be assessed early.

The macula is the central region of the retina. During an eye examination the optometrist looks into the eye at the macular to see if there are signs of macular degeneration.

Treatment of macular degeneration is usually performed by those ophthalmologists (eye specialists) who specialise in retinal diseases. Their specialty is called “Medical Retina”. If an optometrist detects macular degeneration then a referral to a retinal specialist will be made for further assessment and possible treatment.

There is no proven method of preventing Macular Degeneration. The only proven association found so far is with smoking. However, the following are believed to help prevent macular degeneration:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Wear sunglasses or other ultraviolet (UV) eye protection from a young age
  • Excercise and follow a healthy lifestyle
  • Eat a balanced, low fat diet – eat fish and dark green leafy vegetables,fresh fruit, and nuts
  • Eat supplements of Fish oils/Omega 3/Flaxseed oil.
  • Eat Anti-oxidants

Possibly zinc and vitamin supplements may help in moderately advanced cases, but care needs to be taken not to overdose on supplements. If you take more than one type of multi-vitamin supplement, it is possible that you may be overdosing of some of the vitamins. The advice of your GP is required to work out healthy doses of supplements.

For more information about macular degeneration, please see Macular Degeration Foundation