Macular degeneration is a serious and permanent eye disease that causes loss of eyesight in the centre of your field of vision. While there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are things you can do to reduce your risk or stop further visions loss.
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 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 vision loss. It is caused by the gradual loss of cells in the retina. It is the most common kind.
- Wet — leads to rapid loss of central vision. It happens when abnormal blood vessels grow under the macular and 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.
The earlier macular degeneration is diagnosed, the better. Never think vision changes are just a part of getting older. See an optometrist or ophthalmologist as soon as possible if you notice any changes to your vision.
Macular degeneration symptoms
The main symptom of macular degeneration is that it is harder to focus on close objects. Therefore, you might:
- have blurred vision or blind spots
- have reduced vision in the centre
- see a blurry or blind spot
- have trouble reading small print that isn’t improved with new glasses
- 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
What causes macular degeneration?
The cause of macular degeneration is not known. But it is more common in people who smoke, who are over 75, and who have close members of their family with the condition.
Macular degeneration diagnosis
An optometrist or ophthalmologist will examine the back of the eyes using a special instrument. Special tests may be needed such as an angiogram of the eye.
Vision tests are also needed.
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.
In wet macular degeneration, the most common treatment now is regular injections of medications into the back of the eye that reduce inflammation and leakage of blood and fluid. Laser treatments might also be used.
There are no treatments for dry macular degeneration.
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:
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Last reviewed: March 2020