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What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in the UK. It affects over 600,000 people in the UK, and usually occurs as a result of getting older, but can happen earlier.

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration illustrationAge-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition which leads to the loss of central vision over time.

The macular is a part of your eye that contains cone cells that register light, and is responsible for central vision. Macular degeneration occurs when these cone cells begin to stop working as a result of damage. This can lead to blurry vision, making colours appear muted, and difficulty recognising faces.

Who is likely to suffer from Macular Degeneration?

  • Women are more likely to suffer from AMD, although it is not known why.
  • White people and people from China are the most at risk of developing AMD.
  • 10% of people over 65 are thought to have some form of AMD.

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

Depending on the type of Macular Degeneration you suffer from, you may experience symptoms either gradually, or over the course of a few days. Symptoms can include:

  • Loss of central vision (objects in front of you appear blurry).
  • Likely to still have peripheral vision, (still able to look to either side).
  • Can occur gradually or suddenly, depending on the type of macular degeneration.
  • Can eventually lead to a completely blank spot in your central vision.

Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Dry age-related macular degeneration (DAMD) occurs as a result of a build-up of fatty proteins in the eyes called drusen.  This usually happens due to age, therefore DAMD is more common in older people. Although vision gradually deteriorates over a number of years, DAMD develops into wet age-related macular degeneration for one in ten people.

Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Wet age-related macular degeneration (WAMD) is more serious than DAMD, and can cause vision loss within a few days. This form of macular degeneration happens due to the eye growing new blood cells to compensate for the macular not working properly. The cells can cause bleeding and scarring, damaging vision.

How to reduce your risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

There is no known cure for either type of AMD. The treatments available aim to conserve a person’s remaining sight.

Wet AMD can be treated through injecting the eye with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor drugs. These prevent new blood vessels from growing in the eye, stopping your vision from getting any worse. This treatment is available on the NHS.

In both cases, sufferers can choose to wear glasses that magnify vision, to help focus their central vision. Eating a lot of green leafy vegetables is thought to delay the effects of AMD. Similarly, an Age Related Eye Disease Study in the US, found that those consuming vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin were 25-40% less likely to have advanced AMD. Additionally, laser surgery may be an option for some people. This can help remove irregular blood vessels in the eye.

Green salad

What About Macular Degeneration In Younger People?

If you are under the age of 50 and are experiencing macular degeneration, it is likely to be caused by a genetic disorder.

How To Cope With AMD

Losing your sight can be very worrisome. You may wish to seek help, advice, or reassurance from charities such as the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB). While you may feel alone if you suffer from this condition, it is not uncommon and there are many options available to you. By registering as partially sighted, you may be able to receive money from the government to compensate for any financial loss. Social services in your area should be able to guide you on mobility issues. Through using magnifiers and certain lighting, you can make the most of your remaining sight.