Macular degeneration is a major cause of blindness in the over 50s. It is caused by a waste product called lipofuscin accumulating at the back of the eyes. This most commonly happens as we age but can uncommonly occur earlier with some genetic disorders. When macular degeneration occurs due to age then it is usually called age related macular degeneration (ARMD or AMD).
With Dry AMD the deposits accumulating at the back of the eye form little spots called drusen. These can build up anywhere at the back of the eye but only cause problems when they accumulate in the macula (the area that detects your detailed central vision). These deposits build up gradually, eventually causing the central vision to deteriorate. This process is usually very gradual, taking a long time to become a problem.
Unfortunately there is no current treatment for dry AMD. Diet and lifestyle changes can help slow the progression of macular degeneration. Smoking is strongly associated with macular degeneration. A good balanced diet has been shown to help protect the back of the eyes. For AMD this needs to include yellow and dark green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach and sweetcorn. Supplements can be taken to help get the required levels if it is difficult to obtain through diet alone.
As the vision deteriorates it often causes some mild distortion in the vision but this change is very gradual. Sudden changes in vision or distortion are more often a sign of wet AMD.
Wet AMD often begins with some dry macular degeneration, however new vessels start to form at the back of the eye in the macula. These vessels break easily causing fluid to build up or haemorraging. This causes a more sudden change in vision and often causes more dramatic distortion in the vision. It often causes straight lines to wobble or move.
Wet AMD needs treatment quickly to prevent further damage. Injections with a drug called Lucentis is very effective at stopping further new vessel growth. This stops further damage and in some cases can improve vision but it needs to be acted upon as soon as symptoms show. If you have any concerns about these symptoms please give us a call.