What is Macular Degeneration?

4 July 2019

  • 1.29 million Australians show some sign of macular degeneration. 
  • More than 200,000 may struggle with vision issues, impeding their ability to read, drive, work, recognise their loved ones or perform everyday tasks like cooking or watching tv. 
  • A little over 160,000 will experience blindness.

Macular degeneration is a family of chronic retinal eye diseases that cause deterioration of your central sight, leading to impeded vision or blindness over time while leaving side vision (peripheral vision) intact. Waste material, or drusen, gradually builds up under the retina in the early stages… Most people won’t notice a difference until the disease begins to impact their daily routine.

The vision impairing stage of macular degeneration is divided into two categories – dry (atrophic) or wet (neovascular). Let’s explore the difference between dry and wet macular degeneration in more detail.

Wet macular degeneration symptoms

Wet macular degeneration (neovascular) occurs when fluid (usually leaking from abnormal vessels) seeps across the macula. Because this part of your eye is used for your central vision, any consistent obstruction leads to blurring and blind spots. While no one knows what causes abnormal blood vessels in the retina to leak, wet macular degeneration usually begins as dry macular degeneration – Around 10% of patients go on to experience both forms.

Book an appointment with the Eye Specialists if you experience any one of these symptoms: 

  • Hazy vision – general, sudden or gradual.
  • Muted or less vibrant colours
  • Visual distortion – do straight lines bend? 
  • Blurred vision, blind spots or reduced central vision in either eye
  • A sudden onset and development of symptoms 

Wet macular degeneration treatment

We treat wet macular degeneration with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF), slamming the brakes on any negative progress. While you may not regain your vision completely, shrinking blood vessels and fluid absorption may lead to a degree of functional recovery, depending on your individual circumstances. An eye injection does sound intimidating… we understand your hesitancy in getting checked on this point alone, but the needles are not generally painful. You may feel a little pressure, but the results are worth the momentary discomfort. Without treatment, wet macular degeneration can  be the end of your central vision permanently. 

Dry macular degeneration symptoms

Dry macular degeneration (atrophic) is the thinning of macular, leading to blurriness and gradual reduction of clear central vision.It can affect both eyes, beginning in one and impacting the other over a period of months or years. You may struggle to read your favourite book or make out the finer details of somebody’s face. Although it can take a long time for dry macular degeneration to make itself known, a lack of diagnosis and treatment may lead to further impediments to your favourite and even simple activities. 

Book an appointment with the Eye Specialists if you experience any one of these symptoms: 

  • Visual distortion – do straight lines bend? 
  • Blurred vision or reduced central vision in one or both eyes
  • Muted or less vibrant colours
  • You find yourself turning up the lights to see when reading or doing detailed work
  • Difficulty adapting to dimly lit areas
  • Difficulty recognising facial features 
  • Blurry words on the printed page or screen

Dry macular degeneration treatment

While no definitive treatment plan for dry macular degeneration exists, two prominent studies have revealed the benefits of antioxidant vitamins. Based on these tests, patients with intermediate to advanced dry macular degeneration should take a supplement containing the following to help your vision fight the effects of the disease:

  • 500 mg of vitamin C
  • 400 international units of vitamin E
  • 80 mg of zinc
  • 2 mg of copper
  • 10 mg of lutein
  • 2 mg of zeaxanthin

Macular degeneration symptoms and treatment is a long-term care issue. Although the highlighted treatments may help you to retain and even regain your vision, it’s important you trust your eye specialists to manage the disease at every stage. We will provide the support and certainty you deserve from diagnosis to aftercare and beyond, lending an experienced ear when you need us most.

Put your eyesight first with Eye Specialists. Contact your family GP today for an Ophthalmologist referral. 

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RANZCO - The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists - The Leaders in Collaborative Eye Care
ANZSRS - Australian and New Zealand Society of Retinal Specialists
ASO - Australian Society of Ophthalmologists
ASRS - American Society of Retina Specialists

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