The Dangers of Age Related Macular Degeneration
As we age, we go through many changes, some good and some bad. There are some changes that pose a real threat to our vital functions and one, in particular, is vision. For people aged 50 and over, age related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in Australians.
AMD is a degenerative disease that deteriorates the macula in the centre of the retina which causes loss of vision. It can progress in a slow process where the symptoms can be hard to notice or it can be sudden resulting in one or both eyes losing central or complete vision. Our central vision is important for recognising faces, driving, reading and the ability to see fine detail.
There are two forms of AMD. ‘Dry’ AMD is by far the most common form experienced and is associated with the formation of small yellow deposits, called drusen under the macula. This leads to a thinning and drying out of the macula, causing it to deteriorate in function. The amount of central vision loss experienced is directly related to both the amount and location of the retinal thinning caused by the drusen. Dry AMD can often present with no obvious visual symptoms and can develop over several years. However your eye health professional can easily test for AMD even in its early stages and this is why it is recommended for people aged over 50 to have regular visits with their optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Wet macular degeneration is less common (few than 20% of cases) and occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and macula. These new blood vessels may then start leaking fluids such as blood, causing the macula to lift up from its normally flat position. This leads to the distortion and loss of central vision. ‘Wet’ AMD can result in severe and rapid vision loss if left untreated
AMD is a risk to people over the age of 50 and also to anyone with a close family member who has suffered from AMD in the past. Lifestyle factors also contribute to the risk of AMD, such as smoking, obesity and not having an active lifestyle.
There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing AMD such as eating a healthy and varied diet rich in green leafy vegetables and fish, not smoking and getting regular exercise. Research suggest that taking vitamin supplements containing nutrients such as vitamin E, Zinc, vitamin C, Lutein and Zeaxanthin may help with reducing the risks of AMD. However it is always important to discuss with your doctor before taking any new supplements.
If you are 50 and over, then Northern Eye Centre recommends having an eye test done once a year with a macular degeneration specialist. AMD is a slow deterioration and having your retina checked can detect the early warning signs and an action plan can be put in place.
For more information about age related macular degeneration or to book an appointment with a macular degeneration specialist, contact Northern Eye Centre or visit their website for helpful tips to help protect your eyes.