Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the main cause of blindness in Australia. There is no cure for AMD but treatment can slow its progress.
AMD is a painless degeneration (breaking down) of the macula, the central part of the retina at the back of the eye. 'Dry' AMD causes a slower loss of vision and is due to cells dying at the macula. 'Wet' AMD is more severe and is caused by the formation of abnormal, leaky blood vessels.
Early detection is vital to reduce further damage. Possible warning signs are:
- Difficulty with central vision and fine detail e.g. reading or recognising faces.
- Straight lines appearing wavy or bent.
- Blind spots: dark patches, empty spaces.
The risk of developing AMD increases from the age of 50 and affects one in 3 people over 75 years. A family history of AMD and being a smoker also increase the risk.
People at high-risk should have regular eye examinations and should monitor their vision every day at home with an Amsler chart: a square grid of intersecting straight lines. Any wavy or distorted lines or missing areas may indicate a problem.
Treatment of AMD
All patients with AMD should cease smoking and test their vision daily with an Amsler grid. A healthy diet including dark, leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, fish 2-3 times weekly and nuts is beneficial. Your doctor may also advise a zinc and antioxidant supplement.
In wet AMD the abnormal blood vessels can be treated with either laser therapy or photodynamic therapy (PDT). PDT uses a special light-sensitive drug combined with light therapy to close the blood vessels.
Macular Degeneration Foundation (Tel. 1800 111 709), http://www.mdfoundation.com.au/.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.