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Macular Degeneration - have you heard of it?

Understanding Macular Degeneration:

Macular degeneration is a common eye problem that often happens as people get older, hence why this condition is also called Age Related Macular Degeneration or ARMD for short. In this blog, we'll talk about why it happens, how you can tell if you have it, and what can be done to help.

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a condition that makes your eyesight worse over time. It can make your central vision or a part of your central vision blurry or distorted. It is predominantly caused by a degeneration of the photoreceptor cells in the macula over time (the macula is a part of the back of the eye - the Retina). There are two main types: dry and wet macular degeneration, although these two subcategories have been updated to Exudative and Non-exudative ARMD, for the sake of today we will simply call them Wet and Dry ARMD.

Causes and Risk Factors:

Age and family history can make it more likely for someone to get Macular Degeneration. Living an unhealthy lifestyle including smoking, drinking, not eating healthy foods can all increase your chances of developing Macular Degeneration.

Common Symptoms:

With macular degeneration, you might have trouble seeing things clearly. Straight lines can look wavy, you may notice “movements” in you central vision and you might mistake certain letters and digits for each other, for example you may have trouble telling an “8” from a “3”.

Diagnosis and Screening:

Ophthalmologists and optometrists can check your eyes to see if you have Macular Degeneration. This is most commonly diagnosed from doing an OCT scan – Optical Coherence Tomography. This allows the clinician to assess the deeper layers of the retina at the macula to determine if there are any structural changes that correlate to Macular Degeneration. They may also ask you to self monitor your macula at home by regularly looking at an Amsler grid for any distortion, movements, missing lines or patches and any general changes to the grid appearance:

Treatment Options:

For some people with macular degeneration, particularly Wet Macular Degeneration, ophthalmologists can give special eye injections to help slow it down[1]. Ophthalmologists and optometrists might also recommend certain vitamins and minerals[2] [3]to keep your eyes healthy - this is more common for people with Dry Macular Degeneration.

Lifestyle Changes:

Eating well and not smoking[4] can make a big difference in protecting your vision. Try to eat foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin[5] such as kale, spinach, broccoli and other green leafy vegetables. And if you smoke, quitting is a great way to lower your risk.

Coping and Support:

Dealing with Macular Degeneration can be hard, but you're not alone. You can find help from others who know what it's like. Talking with friends and family can also be a good way to cope. Here at IC Optometrist, we are able to access great resources from The Macular Disease Foundation Australia and Vision Australia to help people cope and live with Macular Degeneration.

Research and Future Developments:

Scientists are constantly working to find better ways to help with Macular Degeneration. Keep an eye out for new treatments and ideas in the future, there may be clinical trials recruiting for participants even now, please let us know at IC Optometrist if this is something you are interested in, we may be able to put you in touch with the right people. Macular Degeneration can affect your vision, but there are ways to manage it. If you think you might have it, book in for an eye test today at IC Optometrist and consider making healthy choices to protect your eyesight.

[1] Kovach JL, Schwartz SG, Flynn HW Jr, Scott IU. Anti-VEGF Treatment Strategies for Wet AMD. J Ophthalmol. 2012;2012:786870. doi: 10.1155/2012/786870. Epub 2012 Feb 28. PMID: 22523653; PMCID: PMC3317200. [2] AREDS2 Research Group; Chew EY, Clemons T, SanGiovanni JP, Danis R, Domalpally A, McBee W, Sperduto R, Ferris FL. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2): study design and baseline characteristics (AREDS2 report number 1). Ophthalmology. 2012 Nov;119(11):2282-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2012.05.027. Epub 2012 Jul 26. PMID: 22840421; PMCID: PMC3485447. [3] Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss: AREDS report no. 8. Arch Ophthalmol. 2001 Oct;119(10):1417-36. doi: 10.1001/archopht.119.10.1417. Erratum in: Arch Ophthalmol. 2008 Sep;126(9):1251. PMID: 11594942; PMCID: PMC1462955. [4] Thornton, J., Edwards, R., Mitchell, P. et al. Smoking and age-related macular degeneration: a review of association. Eye 19, 935–944 (2005). [5] Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group; SanGiovanni JP, Chew EY, Clemons TE, Ferris FL 3rd, Gensler G, Lindblad AS, Milton RC, Seddon JM, Sperduto RD. The relationship of dietary carotenoid and vitamin A, E, and C intake with age-related macular degeneration in a case-control study: AREDS Report No. 22. Arch Ophthalmol. 2007 Sep;125(9):1225-32. doi: 10.1001/archopht.125.9.1225. PMID: 17846363.

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