What Is Macular Degeneration?

Posted on: 22 June 2021

Your macula is the part of your eye in the middle of your retina. It plays an important role in how you see colour and fine details. Macular degeneration is a relatively common eye condition that is characterised by changes to your central vision due to deterioration of the macula.

Lifestyle factors that can contribute to the development of macular degeneration include smoking, being overweight and drinking alcohol. Additionally, the normal aging process can cause changes to the structure of certain proteins in your eye, which can lead to retinal cell damage. You and your eye doctor won't always be able to identify why your macula has deteriorated, but regardless of the cause, there are treatment options available.

There are two main types of macular degeneration, and the impact of the condition on your vision is dependent on the type you are affected by. Read on to find out about these two types of macular degeneration, the symptoms they cause and the treatment approach.

Wet Macular Degeneration

Wet macular degeneration occurs when the blood vessels under the retina begin to bleed. Symptoms of wet macular degeneration include the presence of a dark spot in your central vision, hazy or distorted vision — particularly when looking at fine lines — and a general dulling of the appearance of colours.

Treatment for this type of macular degeneration typically involves laser eye surgery to seal leaking blood vessels. You may also require topical medication to prevent or slow the development of new blood cells, as blood cell growth can be stimulated by this condition.

Dry Macular Degeneration

Dry macular degeneration occurs when yellow fatty deposits, known as drusen, build up around the retina and cause cell damage. Symptoms of dry macular degeneration include eye strain, blurred vision and loss of sharpness of your vision, which can make certain tasks, such as threading a needle or reading fine print, challenging.

Treatment for this type of macular degeneration involves surgery to implant a telescopic lens into your eye. This artificial lens will act as a magnifier for your central vision, which can improve the sharpness and range of your vision.

If you're experiencing any of the above symptoms, book an eye test. Both wet and dry macular degeneration can be diagnosed with an ophthalmoscope, which allows your optometrist to see a magnified view of your retina. They can identify the presence of blood, cellular damage and drusen, and they will refer you to an ophthalmologist for treatment if your eye test uncovers signs of macular degeneration.