Macular Degeneration (MD) is a disease associated with aging that gradually destroys central vision. Central vision occurs at the macula on the retina, at the back of the eye. Because it is the central part of vision, it is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common everyday tasks such as reading and driving.
In some cases, MD advances so slowly that people fail to notice the gradual deterioration of their vision. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a permanent loss of central vision.
While there is presently no cure for Macular Degeneration, there are steps that you can take to prevent or slow the progress of the disease.
MD is present in 15% of people between the ages of 70-75 and is now the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia.
Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
The first signs of MD involve distortion of vision where straight lines appear wavy or bent, rather than loss of sight. Other symptoms include
- Difficulty reading
- Difficulty distinguishing faces
- Need for increased illumination
- Sensitivity to glare
- Decreased night vision
- Reduced colour sensitivity
Risks for developing MD:
- Ageing is the greatest risk factor. The prevalence trebles with each decade over 40 years.
- Smokers have a three times greater risk of developing MD. They also develop the disease approximately ten years earlier than non-smokers.
- Women have slightly higher risk than men.
- Family history is a risk factor. Genes have been identified and linked with MD. There is a 50% chance of developing MD if there is a family history of the disease.
Defense against MD:
- Early detection of MD is crucial as some forms of the disease may be arrested with early treatment.
- Regular eye examinations are the key to early detection before vision loss occurs.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Consider taking a zinc and anti-oxidant supplement.
- Protect your eyes from UV Damage. This is especially important before MD develops.
- Maintain a healthy weight and get some regular exercise (minimum of a 30 minute walk, three times a week).
- Don’t smoke.