What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a lasting eye disease that causes vision loss. It is caused by damage to the nerves in your eye.
It causes blurred vision and even loss of vision in the middle of what you would normally see. This makes it hard to drive, to read and to see people’s faces. In severe cases the person may become legally blind.
There are two main types of macular degeneration:
- dry – develops slowly and causes gradual slight to severe vision loss. It is the most common kind.
- wet – the wet kind develops very quickly. It happens when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macular, which leak blood and fluid. This is the most serious kind.
Since macular degeneration mostly arises in people aged 50 or older, it is also known as aged-related macular degeneration, or ARMD.
What causes macular degeneration?
The cause of macular degeneration is not known. But it is more common in people who smoke, who are overweight, who eat an unhealthy diet or who have a condition that affects their blood vessels, like high cholesterol or diabetes.
Macular degeneration diagnosis
An optometrist or ophthalmologist will examine the back of your eyes using a special instrument. You may need to have special tests such as an angiogram of your eye.
They will also ask you to do vision tests.
Macular degeneration symptoms
The main symptom of macular degeneration is that you can’t focus on close objects. Therefore, you might:
- have blurred vision or blind spots
- have trouble reading small print
- need a brighter light to do close work or read
- have problems judging distances
- have difficulty recognising faces
- think colours seems less bright
- see straight lines as wavy.
Macular degeneration treatment
There is no cure for macular degeneration, so treatment is about preventing further loss of eyesight and maintaining independence for as long as possible. It is important to prevent more damage. Medication, surgery and laser therapy might also help.
Special vitamin supplements are sometimes prescribed for macular degeneration. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists advise that these are only beneficial for certain types of age-related macular degeneration. There is no evidence to support their use for other retinal conditions. For more information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
Macular degeneration prevention
You may be able to reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration or stop the vision loss from progressing. It helps to:
- not smoke
- make sure your blood pressure is normal
- eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and omega-3 fats
- wear a hat and sunglasses when exposed to sunlight
- live a healthy life by controlling your weight and exercising regularly
- taking antioxidant supplements under the guidance of your doctor or naturopath.
Last reviewed: December 2015