What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 60. Because the disease develops as a person ages, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and it can be a source of significant visual disability. I have AMD. It occurs when the retina’s small central portion, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina, which sits at the back of the eye, is a thin layer of tissue containing millions of tiny light-sensing nerve cells. It records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain.


The macula is responsible for central vision in the eye, and it controls your ability to read, drive a car, recognise faces and colours, and see objects in fine detail.

When the macula’s cells deteriorate, images are not received correctly. Initially macular degeneration does not affect vision. However, if the disease progresses, people experience a gradual decline in their ability to see object clearly and distorted vision. If the condition continues to worsen they will see dark or empty spaces blocking the central field of vision and diminished colour vision central vision.


Even so, because the rest of the retina is still working, they retain their peripheral vision, which is not as clear as central vision. At present macular degeneration is considered an incurable eye disease.


There are two main types of age-related macular degeneration:


Dry form. The "dry" form of macular degeneration is characterised by the presence of deposits, called drusen, in the macula. A few small drusen may not cause changes in vision; however, if they grow in size and number they may lead to the symptoms people find most noticeable when they read. In more advanced stages there is also a thinning of the light-sensitive layer of cells in the macula leading to tissue death.

Picture taken in April 2014 showing the druse in my right eye.
Picture taken in April 2014 showing the druse in my right eye.

Wet form. The "wet" form of macular degeneration is characterised by the growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula. These blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina, causing distortion of vision that makes straight lines look wavy, as well as blind spots and loss of central vision.


How is AMD Treated? Some doctors recommend vitamin supplements to reduce the progression of Dry AMD. I live in Sydney Australia and the treatment I adhere to includes taking vitamin supplements daily and I can confirm that my AMD has not deteriorated since I was first diagnosed 5 years ago.


The main treatment for wet AMD is injections of Lucentis. This treatment targets the VEGF protein (Vascular Endothelia Growth Factor). This protein promotes the growth abnormal blood vessel in the retina. These injections may prevent further loss of vision.


John Owens - October 2016

Drawing of two people with low vision and macular degeneration.

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