Eyesight is one of the most important senses we have. Most of what we perceive comes through the sense of sight. Regular eye tests are important; they allow you to have your vision corrected, identify serious health conditions and also detect early signs of eye conditions such as Glaucoma or Age-related Macula 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, responsible for 50% of all cases of blindness and severe vision loss. A staggering 1 in 7 Australians over the age of 50 have some evidence of macular degeneration and research show’s it is 50 times more common in Australia than multiple sclerosis and 4 times more common than dementia.

 

So firstly, what is a macula?

The macula is an area of our eyes at the centre of the retina at the back of the eye, which produces our clearest sharpest vision. It gives us the ability to see “20/20” and provides the best colour vision, making it very important for our sight!

 

What causes AMD?

AMD is usually associated with family history or ageing. The risk of development of the condition increases after the age of 50, and if you have a family history of macular degeneration you have a 50% chance of developing the condition yourself. Certain forms of the disease can also affect younger people.

 

There are several risk factors associated with macular degeneration:

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

 

What are the symptoms of AMD?

You may be wondering what symptoms to look out for if you think you may have AMD. The truth is, there are often no symptoms associated with early to intermediate age-related macular degeneration. As AMD affects central vision, it can have a major impact on focused tasks such as reading and writing, colours can become less vibrant, and people’s faces can become more difficult to recognise. Because it can often be symptomless, it’s really important to have regular eye tests.

If you have any signs of macular 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 for further assessment. They can also provide you with supportive information from patient advocacy groups such as the Macular Degeneration Foundation of Australia. It’s really important if you do have a family history to get your eyes tested by an optometrist every two years from the age of 40.