This is a progressive condition that can affect people as they get older. The part of the retina responsible for seeing fine detail is called the macula and it is affected in age related macular degeneration. Sometimes the delicate cells of the macula become damaged and stop working. As macular degeneration is an age related process it usually involves both eyes, although they may not be affected at the same time.
Dry and Wet Macular Degeneration.
Dry macular degeneration is the most common form and usually causes gradual changes in vision because the visual cells simply cease to function. Like the colours fading in an old photograph.
In wet macular degeneration, vision can drop quickly due to the rupture of small blood vessels beneath the macula resulting in a large scar behind the eye.
What are the symptoms?
In the early stages central vision may be blurred or distorted, with things looking an unusual size or shape. Some people notice a black patch or black spot in the centre of their sight. If you suspect that you may have macular degeneration you should see your doctor or optician, who will exam the macula closely with an instrument called an Ophthalmoscope. Another test that may be used is a grid pattern called an Amsler Chart which resembles a piece of graph paper. Patients with macular degeneration often report that sections of the grid appear distorted or missing.
For treatment of macular degeneration to be effective it must be diagnosed as early as possible, as damage cannot be reversed. With dry macular degeneration, vitamins and minerals are often prescribed to prevent further progression e.g. I-Caps which contain high amounts of carotene (found in carrots) as well as diet alteration to include a lot of fruit and vegetables.
With wet macular degeneration where new blood vessels have appeared laser surgery may be used. In this treatment a focused, intense beam of laser light is used to seal off leaking blood vessels and to prevent new blood vessels growing.
The two most important things we can do to help ourselves avoid macular degeneration are;
• Improve our diet to include coloured vegetables such as peppers and spinach.
• Reduce alcohol intake and stop smoking.