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Macular Degeneration

  • What is Macular Degeneration?

    Macular degeneration is a chronic eye condition that causes a loss of central vision because of damage to the macula. The macula is in the central part of the retina that focuses images. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is most common in people older than 50 years. The condition is more common in Western countries than in Asia.

    As the central part of your vision is affected, you may find it difficult to read or to recognise faces and driving will be affected. However, your peripheral vision (outside the centre of your gaze) will allow you to continue with other daily activities.

    There are two types of macular degeneration:

    • Dry macular degeneration is characterised by drusen (yellow fatty deposits) in the retina. You may experience some vision loss or a blind spot in the central portion of your vision, but dry macular degeneration rarely causes severe vision impairment or blindness.
    • Wet macular degeneration is a more serious form of the disease, whereby new blood vessels grow underneath the retina. The new vessels may leak blood or fluid, thereby distorting your vision and resulting in blind spots. Although wet macular degeneration can cause severe vision loss, it rarely leads to total blindness and you will retain some peripheral vision.
  • The causes of macular degeneration include:

    • Age
    • Heredity
    • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
    • High cholesterol levels
    • Lack of certain vitamins and minerals that are antioxidants, eg. vitamins A, C and E, and selenium
    • Long-term unprotected exposure of the eye to sunlight
    • Smoking tobacco
  • There are few symptoms in early macular degeneration. As the disease progresses, you may experience:

    • Difficulty in reading, watching television and recognising faces
    • Loss of central vision
    • 1 or more blind spots
    • Straight lines appearing wavy
  • Several treatments for macular degeneration include:

    • Drug therapy – drugs are injected into the eye to seal off new blood vessels
    • Laser photocoagulation – a surgical procedure involving the application of a hot laser
    • Photodynamic therapy – a low-energy, cold laser and a light-sensitive drug are used to seal off new blood vessels
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