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Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is primarily age related, affecting one in seven people over the age of 50, in Australia.

The Macula is the very centre of the retina. You are reading this text using your macula. It is responsible for your ability to read, distinguish faces, drive a car and any other activities which require fine vision.

Macular Degeneration (MD) is the name given to a group of degenerative diseases of the retina that cause progressive, painless loss of central vision, affecting the ability to see fine detail, drive, read and recognise faces.

Unfortunately there is no cure for MD. However there are treatment options that can slow down its progression, depending on the stage and type of the disease (wet, dry, and other forms). The earlier the disease is detected, the more vision you are likely to retain.

MD begins in the Retinal Pigment Epithelium, or RPE, a layer of cells underneath the retina. The RPE is responsible for passing oxygen, sugar and other essentials up to the retina and moving waste products down to the blood vessels underneath (these vessels are called 'the choroid').

At early stage, MD usually appears in dry form. It occurs when this "garbage collection" breaks down and waste products from the retina build up underneath the RPE. These deposits, known as 'drusen', are easily seen by your eye care professional as yellow spots.

As MD progresses to wet form, the RPE cells die and the RPE cells fail to prevent choroidal blood vessels from growing into the retina. As a result, vision loss occurs.

In the early stages of MD, when drusen first appear, you may not realise anything is wrong and you may still have normal vision. That is the best time to detect the disease. It is important to be aware that the dry type (drusen) can turn into the wet type (lose of vision) so it is important to have regular checkup with your eye care professional.

Risk Factors

Age - Macular Degeneration is primarily age related, affecting one in seven people over the age of 50, in Australia.
Family History - People with a family history of Macular Degeneration have a 50 percent chance of developing the disease.
Smoking - Smokers and people that have smoked are three times more likely to develop Macular Degeneration


If you have any of the following symptoms, you should seek help immediately from an eye care professional.
Difficulty in reading or doing any other activity which requires fine vision
Distortion where straight lines appear wavy or bent
Distinguishing faces becomes a problem
Dark patches or empty spaces appearing in the centre of your vision

At early stages it may go unnoticed. Symptoms should never be dismissed as part of just 'getting older'. Detecting changes early allows you to take steps to slow down the progression of Macular Degeneration. The Amsler Grid is an important tool in detecting any changes in vision.

Reduce the Risk

There are some positive lifestyle steps that can be followed that may help to reduce the risk of MD or help to slow down the progression of MD.

Eye Health Checklist

You can't change your genes or your age but you may reduce the risk of MD or slow down the progression of the disease, by making positive diet and lifestyle changes:
  • Have your eyes tested regularly and make sure the macula is checked.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Keep a healthy lifestyle, control your weight and exercise regularly.
  • Eat a healthy well-balanced diet:
  • Limit your intake of fats
  • Eat fish two to three times a week
  • Eat dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily
  • Eat a handful of nuts each week
In consultation with your doctor, consider taking a zinc and antioxidant supplement. Provide adequate protection for your eyes from sunlight exposure, especially when young.

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