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How is macular degeneration detected and what can be done about it?

The macula is the very central area of the retina that provides the highest visual resolution. It is particularly important for the many detailed visual tasks that are an integral part of modern life both close up and far away, from reading to watching television, to looking at the mobile phone. Macular degeneration is typically not seen until the later decades of life, especially the 70s onwards. The major modifiable risk factor for macular degeneration is smoking, which increases the risk about four times.

Having your eyes examined by an optometrist is not just a matter of determining whether or not you need a new pair of glasses. Equally if not more important are procedures to assess the health of your eyes at each visit. These include a thorough inspection of the retina, the light-sensitive film at the back of the eye, as well as the taking of photographic and/or cross-sectional images which are particularly helpful in confirming or otherwise the presence of macular degeneration.

There are two main types of macular degeneration, “dry” and “wet”. Dry macular degeneration is usually a very slow process that gradually affects vision over many years, whereas wet macular degeneration results in a dramatic and sudden change in vision. Patients with dry macular degeneration are at greater risk of progressing to the wet form, and will sometimes be placed on supplements to slow down (but not stop) the progression of their disease. Otherwise, there is currently little that can be done about dry macular degeneration.

For patients with wet macular degeneration, there is a window of a few weeks where injections into the eye can result in significant recovery of vision. This injection is performed by an eye specialist or ophthalmologist. Patients at risk of developing wet macular degeneration will usually be provided with an Amsler grid chart that they should view weekly so that they can seek attention promptly should they detect changes in their vision.

We recommend regular examinations of the eyes every two-three years to monitor the health of the retina.

If it has been a while since your last eye examination why not schedule an appointment today.