Put simply, as we get older, delicate cells around the macular become damaged and eventually stop working.The macula is found at the centre of the retina where the incoming rays of light are focused. It provides our central vision and the vision needed for detailed activities such as reading and writing, our ability to appreciate colour.
Because macular degeneration is an age-related process it usually involves both eyes, although they may not be affected at the same time. In the early stages your central vision may be blurred or distorted, with things looking an unusual size or shape and straight lines starting to wobble. This may happen very quickly (Wet AMD) or develop slowly over manymonths (Dry AMD) . You may be very sensitive to light or actually see lights that are not there. The macula enables you to see fine detail and people with the advanced condition will often notice a blank patch or dark spot in the centre of their sight. This makes activities like reading, writing and recognising small objects or faces very difficult.
Macular degeneration is the most common cause of poor sight in people over 60 but never leads to complete sight loss because it is only the central vision that is affected. Vision at the outer edges of the eye is never effected. This means that almost everyone with macular degeneration will have enough side vision to get around and maintainsome independence.
The leading risk factors for developing macular degeneration are age, smoking, and a family history of the disease. Other risks include having a light coloured (blue) iris, exposure to UV light, race, BMI and obesity, alcohol, cardio-vascular disease, statins and some hypertensive medication.
While some of these risks cannot be prevented there is now good evidence that in some eyes that show the early signs of macular degeneration, nutritional supplements and changes in diet may slow the progression of the disease. Our optometrists can offer you the right advice on when these nutritional changes can help.
If you are concerned about macular degeneration, or you have the condition in one eye and are worried that it may be developing in the other eye then you should visit one of our optometrists. They have experience in dealing with macular disease and are equipped with state of the art OCT scanners that in seconds, can look for early signs of the disease and monitor changes in the condition. If a hospital appointment is required they can arrange that for you, as well as providing advice on the best spectacles, magnifiers and lighting for your specific condition.
Find out more about AMD in this informative video.
Up to half of all people with macular disease experience visual hallucinations, known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome. These may be quite vivid. They are caused by the brain trying to ‘fill in’ detail in the blind areas.
These visual hallucinations can sometimes be quite frightening and confusing for the sufferer. However the symptoms do not last forever and do decrease over time.
If you are concerned about macular degeneration, please get in touch.