Macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a degenerative eye disease that causes progressive loss of central vision. AMD is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss for people over 40 in Australia. 1 in 7 people over the age of 50 have some signs of AMD.

What are the symptoms of age-related macular degeneration?

There are often no symptoms associated with early to moderate AMD. It isn't painful and you may not notice you have the condition until there is a significant impairment to your vision. As AMD affects central vision, it can have a major impact on focused tasks such as reading and writing. You may not even notice you have the condition until you experience a loss of vision. AMD affects activities requiring detail, such as reading and writing.

Dry AMD

The more common of the two conditions, dry AMD affects your ability to see fine detail. You may find it difficult to read, use your computer, watch the television, drive, etc. Some people may not realise the change in vision, as the deterioration is so slow.

Wet AMD

Wet AMD involves a sudden and sometimes dramatic decline in your central vision, usually in one eye. Typically, wet AMD develops in people who already have dry AMD. Some serious symptoms associated with AMD are distortion of straight lines, or a constant blurring of central vision. It is very important to have this assessed by an optometrist as soon as possible.

What causes age-related macular degeneration?

Dry AMD is caused by the gradual break down of light-sensitive cells in the macula. This usually occurs over a period of years. Wet AMD can occur much more suddenly. This is due to leaking of weak blood vessels underneath the macula which then can cause scarring. It is usually related to ageing with risk of development of the condition increasing after the age of 50. Certain forms of the disease can also affect younger people.

There are several risk factors associated with macular degeneration:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Family history
  • Race
  • Smoking
  • Obesity

AMD can be hereditary and people with a direct family history have a 50% chance of developing the condition, so it's really important to understand your family's eye health history. AMD is a gradual, progressive condition and will usually affect both eyes. However, the rate of progression in each eye can differ.

What help is available?

There is currently no treatment available for dry AMD,but the irreversible affects of wet AMD can be slowed down if detected early by your optometrist and lifestyle risk factors are addressed. While treatment for wet AMD will not cure the disease, it will help to stabilise the disease and maintain vision for as long as possible.

Your optometrist will be able to advise on adjustments you can make to your lifestyle to lower your risk of macular degeneration, such as nutritional supplements to slow the progression of the condition.

Specsavers will monitor your vision and eye health with regular eye tests to to ensure any change to your eyes is detected, as the dry form of AMD has the potential to develop into the wet form of the disease.

If there are any signs of macula degeneration your optometrist will discuss their findings with you and advise on the best course of action. This may be to return for more frequent eye tests to monitor carefully, or they may refer you to an ophthalmologist/eye specialist for further assessment. They can also provide you with supportive information from patient advocacy groups such as the Macula Degeneration Foundation of Australia or Vision Australia.

Specsavers is proud to support and work with Macular Disease Foundation Australia.

We both believe the best way to give people with macular degeneration hope is to detect it before they have lost any of their sight, initiate treatment and provide ongoing monitoring to ensure they remain on their treatment plan in order to preserve their vision for the rest of their life.

Who is Macular Disease Foundation Australia?

Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) was established in 2001 to support people living with or affected by macular degeneration. MDFA is committed to reducing the incidence and impact of macular disease in Australia through education and awareness programs, research, the provision of support services and by representing the best interests of the macular disease community.

Did you know?

Eye tests are bulk billed to Medicare so there are no out of pocket expenses for you.

Frequently asked questions

Listed on a valid Medicare card without Optometry restrictions.