June 26, 2019

Types of Macular Degeneration

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Read the full NZ Herald article here

MD is short for Macular Degeneration. The term covers a group of eye disease that affects the macula; a small central part of the retina in the back of your eye. The macula is vital to all vision-based tasks, such as facial recognition, driving, reading, and anything that requires discerning fine detail.

According to Macular Degeneration New Zealand (MDNZ), one in seven people over 50 years old will get macular degeneration. Today, MD is the number one cause of permanent sight loss in patients over 65. The prospect may sound terrifying, but MD does not completely blind people. Many of those diagnosed with MD may be pronounced legally blind, but there will still usually be enough peripheral vision to be able to navigate around the house or familiar locations. Despite this, MD is incredibly frustrating for sufferers in our modern information-based world of text, video and busy streets.

Types of MD

MD has two main sub-types, Dry MD and Wet MD.

Dry MD

Dry macular degeneration is the more common of the two, and is the majority of MD cases. It is called "Dry" to differentiate it from the "Wet" form which has leaky blood vessels under the retina. Dry MD will lead to irregular and distorted retinas which causes a slow loss of central vision. The very earliest stages of Dry MD may present no noticeable symptoms. There is no specific treatment for Dry MD once it has developed but it is important to monitor it as sometimes it will progress into wet MD. Prevention by good nutrition is helpful - see more below.

Wet MD

Wet MD is characterised by a sudden loss in vision caused by abnormal blood vessels growing under the retina. The vision loss associated with Wet MD is more rapid and more severe. In both cases, common symptoms include slow, painless loss of central vision, distorted images and dark spots, colours appearing less vivid, and even straight lines appearing curved. There are special medical treatments for Wet MD, but as with any disease the earlier treatment is started the better the outcome, so changes in your vision should be investigated promptly.

What Causes MD

MD can be an age related problem but there are contributing factors.

Smoking

Smokers have three times the risk of developing MD. Stopping smoking, no matter how long you have smoked for, will reduce your risk and improve your health.

Family history of MD

There are a few genes that have been isolated as potential markers for MD, and it's commonly accepted that the disease is at least partially hereditary.

Other causes of MD

More research is needed, but other factors that lead to MD may also include too much alcohol, over-exposure to UV radiation from the sun, poor diet and high cholesterol. Generally, living a healthy lifestyle overall is the best way to reduce the chances of developing MD.

What can you can do to combat MD?

The best thing you can do to combat MD is to catch it early. There is no magic bullet for curing the disease, so regular retina check-ups with your optometrist or ophthalmologist are important to detect the disease in its early stages.

Good nutrition and antioxidant supplements have been shown in major clinical trials to significantly reduced the relative risk of progression of MD and delay vision loss. More information is contained in MDNZ's Nutrition and Supplements fact sheet, and any changes in diet or lifestyle should be undertaken in consultation with your doctor.

If you're worried about sight loss, or changes in your vision, talk to Re:Vision Sight Correction Centre, book an assessment with our professional and highly-experienced eye doctors; Dr Trevor Gray and Dr Mo Ziaei. So don't wait for your vision to get worse, contact us or call the team on 0800 55 2020

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