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Understanding Age-related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye condition affecting 1 in 7 Australians over 50. Almost 15% of Australians over the age of 80 have some vision loss due to AMD. This progressive disease primarily impairs central vision, critical for reading, driving, and recognising faces.

There may be no or minimal symptoms in the early stages of macular degeneration. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include;
1. Blurred Vision: Initially, this may occur only during reading or other close-up activities.
2. Distorted Vision: Straight lines may appear wavy or crooked. The horizontal, for example, may be distorted
3. Dark or Empty Areas: A blind spot may develop in the centre of your vision.

Several factors could increase the risk of developing macular degeneration, including:
1. Age: This is the single most significant risk factor and primarily affects people over the age of 50
2. Genetics: A family history of AMD increases your risk significantly.
3. Smoking: Smoking is the most significant modifiable risk factor. You have a 3-4 times change in developing AMD compared to if you do not smoke.

Regular eye examinations with your optometrist in Canberra are not just recommended, they are essential for the early detection and management of macular degeneration. A typical comprehensive eye examination to examine for macular degeneration will include;
1. Visual Acuity Test: This test measures how well you see at various distances, which helps assess central vision loss.
2. Dilated Eye Exam: By dilating your pupils, your optometrist in Canberra can examine your macula for signs of degeneration
3. Amsler Grid Test: This involves looking at a grid with straight lines to check for any distortion or missing areas in your central vision. The Amsler Grid Test is a simple yet effective way to detect early signs of macular degeneration. By focusing on the central dot and noting any distortion or missing areas in the grid, you can help your optometrist in Canberra identify potential issues with your central vision.
4. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT): This technology shows the structure of the macula in greater detail and helps detect and monitor eye diseases, particularly macular degeneration. OCT is a non-invasive imaging test that provides high-resolution cross-sectional images of the macula, allowing your optometrist in Canberra to detect and monitor any changes in your macular health, including those associated with AMD.

There is currently no cure for macular degeneration, but early detection and prompt intervention can slow its progression.
Simple lifestyle modifications include;
• Quitting smoking
• Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a diet filled with lots of green leafy vegetables and foods high in Omega 3s
• Wearing sunglasses
• Commercially available at the pharmacy, it has also been shown to reduce the progression of AMD and can be recommended to you by your local optometrist in Canberra.

Macular degeneration is a serious eye condition that can significantly impact quality of life, particularly in older adults. Early detection, lifestyle changes and regular eye examinations are essential in maintaining your macular and overall ocular health. If it’s been a while since your last eye examination, or if it’s been over two years, don’t wait any longer. Visit your local optometrist in Canberra today to ensure optimal eye health.