Macular degeneration (MD) is the leading cause of blindness in the UK.
The macula is an area at the back of your eye that you use for seeing fine details such as reading a book. Macular degeneration (MD) covers a number of conditions which affect the macular. The conditions affect your ability to do certain tasks such as reading and watching television, but do not affect your ability to walk around as your side vision is not affected.
One of the most common symptoms of MD is noticing that straight lines appear wavy or there are patches missing from your vision. You may not notice this if it happens in one eye as your other eye will compensate, so it is important to regularly check your vision in each eye separately. You can do this by looking with each eye separately at the straight lines on a door frame or Venetian blind. If you notice the lines are distorted or there are missing patches, you should see your optometrist straight away.
The most common forms of MD happen more as you get older and are known as age-related MD (AMD). Around one in 10 people aged 65 or older show some signs of MD caused by a genetic condition but this is less common than AMD.
AMD can be ‘wet’ or ‘dry’:
Dry AMD is much more common than wet AMD and is when yellow deposits, known as drusen, build up behind the macula. This may, in time, affect your vision, though this normally happens slowly. No treatment has yet been developed for dry AMD.
Wet AMD happens when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow behind the macula and leak fluid. This pushes the macula away from its blood supply at the back of the eye and causes a rapid loss of vision. It is usually associated with you noticing distorted vision (straight lines become wavy, or you have a blank spot in the centre of your vision). You can check this yourself by looking at straight lines such as door and window frames or venetian blinds. Or, you can look at a grid of squares printed on paper, called an Amsler chart. Your optometrist will be able to advise you on this. It is important to do this with each eye separately and while wearing your glasses, if you need them.
If you notice these symptoms, you need to see your optometrist straight away.
You can get more information about age-related macular degeneration at the following links:
- Royal College of Ophthalmologists
- Royal National Institute of Blind People
- AMD Alliance International
- The Macular Society
This information is provided by the College of Optometrists. The College – a registered charity – is the professional body for optometry in the UK, working for the public benefit. It is a membership organisation and the most qualified practising optometrists in the UK are members. Membership of the College shows a commitment to the very highest clinical, ethical and professional standards. Look for the letters MCOptom or FCOptom to see if your optometrist is a member.