Macular Degeneration

The retina lines the back of the eye much like the film of a camera. The macula is at the centre of the retina and is therefore responsible for our central vision. Whenever you are looking directly at something, be it news print, a face or your watch, you are using your macula.

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) has two main types – “wet” and “dry”. AMD is fairly common, with 15 in every 100 people older than 50 showing early signs. Over the age of 75, this increases to 30 people in every 100. It is more commonly seen in Caucasians than in people of darker race. It typically affects both eyes, although the two eyes may be affected to differing degrees. The main risk factors include:

  1. Increasing age
  2. Smoking
  3. Family history

“Dry” AMD develops slowly, usually over a period of years. Nine out of ten people with AMD have the dry type.

Wet” AMD occurs when fluid leaks within or beneath the macula. This may be associated with the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the back of the eye (choroidal neovascularisation). The layer beneath the retina may separate; this is called a retinal pigment epithelial detachment and differs from a retinal detachment. Vision loss may be rapid and severe with wet AMD.

It is important to understand that people with wet AMD first had the dry type. You may have been told that you have dry AMD; this does not mean that you cannot develop the wet type.

Symptoms of AMD include:

  • Straight lines appearing wavy
  • Vision appears blurry or fuzzy
  • Difficulty in recognizing faces
  • Blurred or blind spot in the centre of your vision
Macular Degeneration

The Amsler Grid is a diagnostic tool used to identify and track changes in your vision . Your eye specialist will ask you to monitor your vision by looking at the grid two or three times a week looking to see if you can see all four corners, whether any of the lines are distorted, bent or wavy, using individual and both eyes.

Ocular Retinal Tomography (OCT) is frequently done to aid in the diagnosis and evaluation of AMD. It gives cross-sectional images through the retina, and the layers above and below it.