When we look at things and see images, the light which passes through the eye is focused directly onto the retina which sends electrical impulses to brain via the optic nerve. The macula is itself is a tiny region in the centre of the retina which is the most sensitive part of the eye and it is this area which is responsible for the level of detail that we see in the world around us. A common eye problem, which can often occur as we grow older, is that of macular degeneration or AMD (Advanced Macular Degeneration). It is a well documented condition which affects the observer’s ability to see objects which are directly in the foreground whilst at the same time leaving peripheral vision largely unaffected.
Although macular degeneration is not painful, left untreated it can result in a continuing and substantial loss of central vision which can have an adverse effect on the patient’s quality of life. Things we take for granted, such as reading and writing, or driving the car, can all too often become very difficult and impractical to carry out by ourselves. With macular degeneration, it is important to seek professional advice from a qualified eye specialist as soon as you become aware that you may be suffering from the early stages of the disease.
What to Look Out For
Macular degeneration can fall into one of two distinct categories. These are Wet AMD and Dry AMD. When a patient suffers from wet macular degeneration, the onset of symptoms can be quite sudden with a large build up of fluid developing directly beneath the retina in the space of just a few short days. With dry macular degeneration, the condition can take years to develop and will become apparent by the slow loss of central vision which may become blurry or may gradually disappear altogether. The terms “wet” and “dry” are used to describe whether or not leaking blood vessels are present. Around nine out of ten cases of AMD are described as being dry macular degeneration, although this can become “wet” at any given time and without warning should the blood vessels at the back of the eye suddenly begin to burst.
At present there is actually no known cure for macular degeneration although various treatment options do exist. If you suffer from dry AMD, then the available treatments are focused on improving your daily quality of life. A number of items are available that are designed to help you carry out tasks which have become difficult following the onset of symptoms and these include books with large print, bright reading lights and magnifying glasses. If wet AMD is affecting your quality of life then the main treatment options are laser eye surgery, in which a computer controlled laser is used to destroy leaking blood vessels inside the eye, and a special type of medication known as anti-VEGF drugs which have been developed in order to stop the growth of new blood vessels that can make the condition worse.