Macular degeneration (MD) is the leading cause of blindness among people over 50 years of age. It involves the loss of core vision needed to read, drive and recognise faces. However, many people still don’t know what symptoms to look out for, and some don’t even know that MD exists at all. That’s surprising when you see that the disease affects one in seven Australian’s over the age of 50, and is responsible for 48 per cent of severe vision loss in Australia.
One specialist which focuses on dealing with MD is Vision Eye Institute, and it says that the treatment of the condition has come a long way in the past few years.
“For years we were in a position where specialists would simply have to watch patients go blind. However, a treatment was introduced in 2006 which could treat MD,” says Vision Eye Institute business partnerships manager Kylie Harris.
“MD is essentially an eye disease which affects the retinal tissue at the back of the eyes. It specifically affects the central vision, which is critical for you to be able to see properly.” There are two forms of macular degeneration – wet and dry. There are a number of treatments to slow down, and in some cases, reverse, the effects of wet macular degeneration. However, there is currently no treatment for dry macular degeneration.
The wet form occurs when you develop unwanted blood vessels which leak blood and serum into the central macular area. The distortion of vision is similar to spilling water in the middle of a photograph.
There are a number of symptoms which could signal MD in its early stages, such as:
- Straight lines appearing wavy, distorted or bent
- Difficulty reading, driving, or performing anything that requires fine vision.
- Trouble distinguishing faces
- Dark patches or empty spaces appearing in the centre of your vision
- Sensitivity to little or too much light, or poor colour judgement could also be a sign. The Amsler Grid is an easy way to regularly test yourself. This 10 second test simply requires you to look at the dot in the centre of the grid. If the surrounding lines appear wavy, missing or blurred, you must see an eyecare specialist immediately.
Lifestyle changes can reduce your risk
Age is the single biggest risk factor for developing MD and it can often be hereditary. However, you can still take measures to reduce your chances of contracting MD with a few easy lifestyle changes.
- Eyetests. Have your eyes tested regularly, and make sure the ‘macula’ is checked.
- Stop smoking. After ageing, smoking is the second biggest risk-factor with MD, so if you smoke you should quit immediately. Smokers are three times as likely to contract macular degeneration as non- smokers, and they are also likely to develop it at an earlier age.
- Eat well. Eat fish at least twice a week. You should also regularly eat green, leafy vegetables, blueberries, strawberries, yellow vegetables, nuts and seeds.
- Keep healthy. Maintain a generally healthy lifestyle – control your weight and exercise regularly.
If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, it is important to seek advice from an eye care professional as soon as possible. Early detection is critical.
“We always say that early treatment is essential – it can stop you from
forming any scarring,” Kylie says. “This way, you’re more likely to keep your eyesight at a regular level and the negative affects can even be reversed.”
The treatment for wet macular degeneration varies. Although it is known to improve vision, its main aim is to stabilise and maintain the best vision for as long as possible.
A protein named vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is chiefly responsible for the leaking and growth of the new blood vessels which causes macular degeneration.
To slow or stop this process, anti-VEGF drugs are injected into the eye. These are
usually administered monthly at first, but injection frequency depends on the severity of the condition, and the measurable response to treatment.
First and foremost, Kylie says for most people (especially those over 50 are most at-risk), it’s a case of keeping on top of your eye health and getting regular eye checks.
“A lot of guys think that because they get their eyes tested every two years, they’ll be fine. Unfortunately that’s just not the case. With macular degeneration you could be fine in June, but have macular degeneration by December,” she says.
“That’s the idea behind the Amsler Grid – it’s just one simple test – people can put it on their fridge, or somewhere in regular sight, and check their eyes periodically. If their vision changes, they know to go see their usual eye care provider as soon as possible.
“The Amsler Grid is as much about spreading the message about macular degeneration as it is about taking the test. The more people that know about it, the more awareness there is, so there’s a better chance that it will get picked up at an early stage.”
Vision Eye Institute
This article was kindly provided by ManSpace Magazine. For more manly info you can visit the Manspace Magazine website.