Age-related macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when the central retina, which is responsible for fine-detail vision, is damaged. This leads to distorted vision and a progressive reduction in central vision, affecting daily activities such as driving, reading and recognising faces.
There are 2 types of age-related macular degeneration; dry and wet AMD. Dry AMD causes of gradual decline in central vision, while wet AMD may lead to more sudden and severe visual loss. Early detection of AMD is important to minimise irreversible visual loss.
While there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are treatments which can slow or halt the progression of the disease.
Avoid smoking, maintain a healthy lifestyle and eat a well-balanced diet including green leafy vegetables high in antioxidants and fish rich in omega-3s. Vitamin supplements, such as the AREDS2 formulation, have also been found to be beneficial.
Injections of anti-VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) medication into the eye are now the mainstay of treatment for wet AMD. These medications reduce the leakiness of abnormal blood vessels at the macula, helping to maintain vision and in some cases improving vision.
I have both AMD and cataracts. Will cataract surgery worsen my macular degeneration?
Cataract surgery has been generally found to have no influence on the progression of AMD. Cataract surgery often improves vision in people with AMD giving them clearer vision, however, this clearer vision can sometimes emphasise AMD symptoms such as metamorphopsia. If you have just begun a treatment regime for wet AMD, it is often beneficial to stabilise the macula with a few months of treatment before considering cataract surgery.
If I have wet AMD in 1 eye, will I definitely get it in the other eye?
The presence of wet AMD in 1 eye significantly increases the risk of developing wet AMD in your other eye. It is important to regularly monitor your vision in both eyes for any sudden deterioration or distortion and report these changes as soon as possible.
Why did I get AMD? Is it inherited?
While there is no single gene responsible for AMD, there is a strong genetic component and having a family member affected increases your risk.
Will smoking worsen my AMD?
Smoking has been found to be a strong risk factor for developing AMD. If you are diagnosed with AMD, we strongly advise seeking assistance to cease smoking in order to decrease the risk of visual loss.
Can taking multivitamins prevent me from developing AMD?
The AREDS study showed that certain multivitamins reduced the risk of worsening AMD in people with intermediate or late AMD by around 25%. Multivitamins have not been found to be beneficial in people with early AMD or with no signs of AMD, even with a strong family history. Instead, we would recommend a balanced diet high in antioxidants, and for current smokers to cease smoking.
I’ve been told to monitor my vision with an Amsler grid? How do I use it?
An Amsler grid is a self-monitoring tool you can use at home to check your vision for symptoms of macular degeneration such as distortion of black areas in your vision. You cover one eye and look at the central black dot. All the lines should appear straight. You then repeat with the other eye. If you notice any wavy lines (distortion) of black/missing patches in your vision, you should have your eyes checked by eye care professional.
For further information:
Macular Disease Foundation Australia – www.mdfoundation.com.au/