What is the Macula?
The retina, at the back of your eye, has cells that can detect light. The macula is at the centre of the retina, and is very densely packed with cells that allow you to see fine detail and colour.
What is Macula Degeneration?
In macula degeneration, there is damage to the cells in the macula. In the early stages it can cause print to become distorted and straight lines may look distorted or wavy. As the condition advances, the central distortion or fuzziness can turn into a blank spot which will make it difficult when your looking directly as something such as reading, somebody's face or television. Macular degeneration does not usually lead to total loss of sight as your likely to retain your side vision and is not painful.
Causes of Macula Degeneration
At the moment the exact cause of macular degeneration is not known.
- It is more common in older people and is most seen in people over 65 (the condition is usually known as age related macular degeneration)
- It is more common in women than men
- Genetic factors
- Smoking is linked to your risk of developing the condition
- Some studies have found exposure to high levels of UV and blue light increases the chances of developing the condition
- Other risk factors include high blood pressure, ethnicity and obesity.
Types of Macular Degeneration
Dry Macular Degeneration
This is the most common form of the condition. This occurs when waste products from the cells build up behind the macula and leave deposits known as drusen. It usually develops slowly, over a number of years and tends to happen to older people and leads to a moderate visual loss.
Wet Macular Degeneration
This accounts for around 10% of cases. This develops when new blood vessels (neo-vascularisation) start forming behind the macula and they leak and cause damage to the macula leaving scarring, and preventing the cells from working properly leading to central vision loss. Wet macular degeneration can develop very quickly and affect your central vision in a short period especially if left untreated.
How do you detect Macular Degeneration?
Regular eye examinations is the best way to aid detection along with an Spectralis 4D scan which will detect the smallest change. However, you may notice some changes yourself at which point you should have an eye examination and scan.
What is the treatment for Macular Degeneration?
There are now some well established treatments for wet macular degeneration that are available to patients within certain guidelines although there is no cure. These drug treatments do not bring back damaged cells but can stop your vision getting worse but they may offer some visual improvement. This treatment is administrated by way of injection into the gel of your eye and can stop new blood vessels growing and leaking. The injection is painless and needs to be repeated at regular intervals. There is no current treatment for dry macular degeneration, although there is much research going into this area.
I have Macular Degeneration - where can I get further help?
The Macular Society has a local Guernsey support group who will be able to help with you with practical support. They can be contacted on 0300 3030 111 or www.macularsociety.org
Low vision aids such as magnifiers are also available to aid with tasks such as reading. Whilst we have the knowledge and the ability to dispense these aids, we refer patients to the Guernsey Blind Association whom can provide you with the most suitable aids and support. They can be contacted on 01481 236933 or www.gba.org.gg
For further information on quitting smoking, Quitline can be contacted on 01481 233170 or www.quitline-guernsey.com
The Amsler Grid may be useful in revealing signs of macular degeneration. It is not a substitute for a regular eye examination.
1. If you wear glasses or contact lenses for reading leave them on but do not wear varifocals or distance glasses.
2. View the Amsler Grid approximately 30cm in front of your eyes.
3. Cover one eye with the palm of your hand and focus on the centre dot with your uncovered eye.
If you see wavy, broken or distorted lines, blurred or missing areas of vision, you should contact your optician as soon as possible.
4. Repeat with the other eye.