Macular Degeneration, also known as age-related Macular Degeneration, is the leading cause of legal blindness in Australia, responsible for 50% of all cases of blindness. It is a progressive, chronic disease of the macula (central retina) at the back of the eye and leads to a loss of central vision, affecting the ability to drive, recognise faces and perform activities requiring detailed vision.
There are two basic types – dry and wet. Approximately 85% to 90% of cases are the “dry” (atrophic) type, while 10-15% are wet (exudative) type. The specific factors that cause macular degeneration are not conclusively known, and research into this little-understood disease is limited by insufficient funding. At this point, what is known about age-related macular degeneration is that the causes are complex, but include both heredity and environment. Scientists are working hard to understand what causes the cells of the macula to deteriorate, seeking a macular degeneration treatment breakthrough. Stargadt disease specifically is a form of macular degeneration found in young people, caused by a recessive gene.
If you’re in the early stages of age-related macular degeneration you may not have any symptoms. The first sign you may notice is a gradual or sudden change in the quality of your vision or that straight lines appear distorted to you. This may gradually turn into a dramatic loss of your central vision. Other symptoms include dark blurry areas or whiteout that appears in the centre of your vision, and, in rare cases, you have a change in your perception of colour.
Whilst there is no current cure, there are ways to reduce the risk or slow down the progression of the disease. For example, one can pursue lifestyle changes like dieting, exercise, avoiding smoking and protecting your eyes from ultraviolet light.