Macular degeneration is the gradual degradation of the macula, a small central area of the retina responsible for the way we see images by transmitting them through the optic nerve bundle from the eye to the brain. When the macula gets deteriorated enough, basic functions such as our ability to read, drive around in a car, differentiate between faces and colours become distorted.

Macular degeneration has grown to become the leading cause of vision loss, affecting a large number of people worldwide. Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness and partial vision loss in Australia, affecting one in seven Australians over the age of 50. More than 11 million people are affected in the United States alone, this is more than cataracts and glaucoma combined.

To get a better idea of what happens to the macula, we have to first understand how the human eye operates. The pupil is located right behind the cornea, which is a hole in the coloured membrane known as the iris. Small miniscule muscles in the iris rapidly change the size of the pupil, in much the same way the aperture of a camera is controlled.

A small, but powerful lens behind the pupil changes its shape based on the pull of the muscles in the eye. Much like a camera’s lens, it focuses onto incoming images that are shone onto it from the outside world.

The retina is a light sensitive surface that receives image from the outside world. The macula is a tiny oval located at the centre of the retina where its function includes receiving sharp images that are used for the eye’s normal function.

When the macula becomes affected, it disrupts our ability to read, watch television, drive a car and perform visual related tasks that require concentrating on fine details.

Treating Macular Degeneration

While there is no permanent cure for macular degeneration, there are treatments available with www.personaleyes.com.au/ that will slow the disease and prevent patients from experiencing further loss of vision.

There are several treatment options available. Let’s discuss some of these below:

Using anti-angiogenic drugsDoctors will inject medications directly into the eye. These drugs will prevent the formation of new blood vessels and restrict leakages from blood vessels that could be causing wet macular degeneration.

Laser therapyHigh energy laser treatments are also used to actively destroy blood vessels that cause macular degeneration.

Photodynamic laser therapyThe doctor first uses a light sensitive drug to damage the blood vessels acting abnormally, and then directly shines a laser into the eye that activates the drug, damaging abnormal drug vessels.  

So far there are three stages of macular degeneration (MD):

  1. Early MD – A lot of people in the early stages of macular degeneration do not experience loss of vision, and because the symptoms are painless, it becomes a high risk factor that is very covert.
  2. Intermediate MD – Patients experience some vision loss, but they may not see any noticeable symptoms.
  3. Late MD – At this stage, their vision loss becomes more advanced.

Some of the common risk factors include genetics, race, and health-related behaviours such as smoking that could double the risk of MD.