Macular degeneration is Australia’s leading cause of severe vision loss and blindness, but many people wrongly confuse symptoms of the disease as a normal sign of ageing.
Although macular degeneration is more prevalent in those over 50, it is a chronic painless disease that can be diagnosed through regular eye tests. Optometrists use the latest retinal scanning technology to aid in the detection and monitoring of macular degeneration.
Early detection of any form of the disease is crucial as there are a great number of treatment options available to slow the progression of the disease, and therefore its impact on vision.
The most common symptoms include:
• Difficulty reading
• Distortion where straight lines appear wavy or bent
• Difficulty distinguishing faces
• Dark patches or empty spaces appear in the centre of your vision
Although the condition may not make itself apparent until later in life, preventative measures can be started much earlier.
Try these four tips to help reduce your risk of macular degeneration.
- Don’t smoke as it damages the cells in your retina and more than doubles the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
- Protect your retina from the impact of harmful UV rays by wearing good quality sunglasses with 100% UVA protection. You can also use a transparent anti-reflective coating on your prescription lenses, which helps to reduce the exposure to blue light.
- Eat well because research suggests that diets rich in carotenoids, found in leafy vegetables such as raw carrot, broccoli and raw spinach, can reduce the risk of macular degeneration. A high-level boost of nutrients such as zeaxanthin (found in most fruits and vegetables) and lutein (found in egg yolk) may slow progression of the condition.
- Be self-aware and monitor your eyesight regularly to avoid missing any changes in your vision. Between visits to your eye health professional, those over 50 should monitor changes by using an Amsler grid – a simple tool with a grid of horizontal and vertical lines that will test for symptoms of macular degeneration.
The Macular Disease Foundation Australia is a national charity providing information, guidance and support on prevention, early detection, treatment and rehabilitation. To order your free Amsler grid or if you have any concerns about macular degeneration, call 1800 111 709 or visit www.mdfoundation.com.au.