From 24 to 30 June 2019 is macular awareness week, aimportant calendar event that aims to raise awareness around one of the most common causes of poor vision in the UK. 

What is macular degeneration

Macular degeneration is a severe eye condition which damages the macula of the retina, causing loss of vision in the centre of the visual field. This eye problem can affect one or both eyes, although peripheral vision is usually preserved. There are different forms of macular degeneration, but the most common affects older people, and it is called age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD).

 

Causes

Ageing is surely the first cause of the degenerative process of the macula, although smoking and genetical factors can also play a role. Obesity and damage from extensive sun exposure might also increase the risk of developing macular degeneration.

 

Symptoms

In its early stages, macular degeneration is usually asymptomatic, and it is therefore difficult to diagnose. As it progresses, symptoms include blurry or distorted vision. Gaps or dark spots may also appear leading to the inability to see clearly. Other symptoms can be hypersensitivity to light and colour fading.

 

Diagnosis

The presence of macular degeneration depends on signs on the macula inside the eye, not necessarily poor vision. During an eye test, an optometrist can identify the degenerative process by utilising a magnifying glass to look at the back of the eye. Sometimes, eye drops will be put in your eyes to help identify the problem.

 

Treatment

If the optometrist suspects macular degeneration, you might be referred to an ophthalmologist for immediate treatment and further investigations, which often includes a scan of the back of your eyes

 

Prevention

A balanced diet and regular exercise are recommended to prevent several eye conditions, including macular degeneration. Vitamins A, C and E, and antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin, are essential to maintain the cells of the eye healthy.

 

The most effective way to prevent and detect any problem is having regular eye tests. If you wear glasses, you should have an eye test at least once a year, to ensure that your prescription has not changed and that your vision is clear. 

 

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