Published 27 Apr 2021
Don’t you just hate it when you get a scratch on your sunglasses or a smudge on your spectacles? It can be quite frustrating to look around or ignore. With a quick clean, your vision returns to normal. But take a moment to imagine having that scratch or smudge in the middle of your central vision permanently. This is a condition known as macular degeneration, a common cause of irreversible vision loss. Continue reading to find out how you can prevent and manage this condition.
What is the macula?
The macula is a very small part of the retina at the back of the eye. It allows us to perform tasks such as reading, driving, face recognition and allows us to engage in activities requiring detailed vision. When light enters the eye, an image forms on the retina at the back of the eye. The retina is a delicate layer of tissue which lines the back of the eye and consists of light-sensitive cells, enabling us to see.
Damage to the macula, just like a scratch in the middle of your glasses, can be quite frustrating to look around or ignore. That’s why it’s important to have your eyes regularly tested by an Optometrist.
What happens when the macula is damaged?
Macular Degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a term used to define a group of retinal eye diseases. AMD has the potential to cause progressive loss of central vision, leaving peripheral or side vision intact. Macular degeneration is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss in people over the age of 50 in Australia, affecting approximately one in seven.
How do keep my eyes healthy?
There are several things you can do to keep your eyes in the best of health:
- Have regular eye examinations
- Quit smoking
- Live a healthy lifestyle
- Wear sunglasses
To find out more view the Macular Disease Foundation Australia’s Eye Health checklist.
Regular eye examinations
The two strongest risk factors for AMD are beyond our control - age and family history.
The best way to manage these factors is with regular eye examinations and communicating any family history of known eye diseases to your optometrist. At GMHBA Eye Care we recommend annual eye examinations once a person turns 65 years of age.
The Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scan is now considered a standard tool in the diagnosis and management of AMD and is available across all GMHBA Eye Care locations. OCT is a non-invasive imaging technique, using light to produce a high-resolution cross-sectional image of retinal tissues. The optometrist uses this information to identify any issues and track changes to your eye health over time.
Your optometrist can also show you how to self-monitor your vision at home with an Amsler grid, which is specifically designed to assist with detecting changes to the macula. Additionally, checking the vision in one eye against the vision of the other eye is a great way to monitor changes to your vision. Just cover one eye and note what you see, then do the same to the other eye to compare.
Smoking is the third strongest risk factor for developing AMD. There is a direct association between the number of cigarettes smoked over time and the risk of developing late-stage AMD. The good news is the eye starts to recover the moment you stop smoking.
Live a healthy lifestyle
A balanced diet is important for your eye health. Include dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily, fish two to three times a week and a handful of nuts. The Macular Disease Foundation have more information on diet and lifestyle.
Wear sunglasses outdoors
Not only are sunglasses a fashion item, but they help reduce the cumulative impact of UV damage to the eye which can contribute to AMD. Find out more here.
What can I do today?
While there are no medical treatments available for early stage macular degeneration there is a substantial amount of research being done around the world in the hope of a treatment. Following the recommended guide is your best defence to slow the progression of this disease.
Additionally, the optometrists at GMHBA Eye Care can address any visual concerns you may have and will assist in finding the right support services for anyone affected with age-related macular degeneration.