Posted on Thursday, January 05, 2017
With a rapidly ageing population, 29.5% of the UK’s population will be over 60 by 2039 (Figures by BBC) we are seeing more and more of the over 60’s being diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (For the purposes of this post we will refer to it as ARMD), research shows 1 in 10 over 65’s have symptoms of ARMD (Figures by NHS). In this blog we will go over, what ARMD is, what the signs and symptoms are and what can be done to prevent it.
What is the macula? I hear most of you cry! Well it is located very near the centre of the retina at the back of your eye, it is the part of your eye that helps you see in great detail (remember learning about rods and cones in school?) and controls your central vision so when it’s poorly it is very sight threatening.
So what is it ARMD? Well there are two types of macular degeneration, known as Wet AMD and Dry AMD.
The most common is Dry AMD which is also the less severe of the two, it happens when a build-up of deposits (what we know as Drusen) damage the cells within the macula. Vision loss with this type tends to be very gradual, taking years to get severe.
The more severe of the two, Wet AMD, can cause vision loss very rapidly, within days usually. This is caused by growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula which causes damage to the cells.
So onto the signs and symptoms, as the macula has nothing to do with peripheral vision you will see no deterioration there. However in your central vision you will notice vision when reading becomes more blurred, seeing in detail i.e. seeing the detail in people’s faces becomes more difficult and colours become less vibrant. In 9 out of 10 cases this happens very gradually over time but if sadly it is Wet AMD this will happen very quickly. As soon as you notice any of these symptoms it is important to see your Optometrists as soon as possible, the longer it is left the less we can do to slow down the process.
Is it curable? Sadly there is no cure for either Dry AMD or Wet AMD but there are ways to slow them down. If you already have ARMD then sometimes you are suitable to have injections to slow the process down. If you have Wet AMD then sometimes laser treatment can be used to destroy abnormal blood vessels but remember this is not a cure. In most cases the NHS or support groups will try and help you make the most of your remaining vision with either magnifiers or fantastic bits of technology to make life easier. A couple of weeks ago I came across something called and OrCam which attaches to spectacles, you point at what you want read out to you and it will read it to you via an ear piece which is also attached to the spectacles (Go to http://www.orcam.com/).
For anyone that doesn’t have ARMD there are certainly things you can do to prevent the onset. Firstly take a look at your diet, do you eat a lot of green and yellow fruit and veg? Stay away from the carrots! A very common myth, although good for you, food like kale, broccoli and spinach are packed with nutrients called lutein and Zeaxanthin which are crucial in keeping your macula healthy. Eat lots of that and you are well on your way to keeping your eyes healthy! If you are like my partner and hate vegetables, it might be worth trying supplements like Preservision and Macusave. Research shows that a daily dose of those little capsules gives you all the lutein and Zeaxanthin you need, but try and stick with a healthy diet!
Do you have a pair of sunglasses with good quality lens coatings? UV is particularly harmful to the eyes, especially UV-A and UV-B which can cause all sorts of issues for the eyes including ARMD. We recommend a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses which are the only sunglasses recommended by the skin cancer foundation. I will write another post towards the spring telling you the benefits of wearing their sunnies! Keep your eyes protected from the sun and you’re all set.
Some research does show that not smoking, cutting down on alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight and keeping that blood pressure down can all help towards keeping the eyes healthy.
Keep on top of most of the above, you are sure to keep those peepers healthy and keep ARMD at bay.
If you have ARMD and do not have the support you need, please contact the Farnham Macula Support Group on 03003 030111.