January 21, 2015

WEAR & TEAR (Age related changes

The Macula is the area of the retina responsible for your most detailed vision. It is very energy intensive and with age this can cause a build up of waste material. This normally presents itself as yellow deposits within the retina called “drusen”. Over many years these drusen can accumulate at the macula and cause a drop in your vision and this is termed Dry Age Related Macula Degeneration (Dry AMD). There is currently no treatment for this. The accumulation of waste materials is often accompanied by new vessels growing below the retina. These new vessels are the body’s way of helping the macula with its oxygen supply but unfortunately these vessels are fragile. This means that they can sometimes burst and spread in-between the retinal layers leading to distortion or a sudden vision loss which is termed Wet Age Related Macula Degeneration (Wet AMD). When this happens it needs to be assessed as soon as possible as it may benefit from treatment using a cold laser (photocoagulation) or special eye injections.

What causes AMD?

The exact causes of AMD are still unknown but the following may have an influence: 

  • family links (possibly genetic or lifestyle)
  • smoking & drinking. 
  • high blood pressure 
  • poor diet 
  • UV exposure

Regime for people at risk of AMD 

  • Alter diet to include more dark, green leafy vegetables, carrots and corn. 
  • Take over-the-counter slow release vitamin/mineral supplements with a meal.
  • Wear blue light protective lenses and a cap or hat when outdoors.
  • Consult GP for a comprehensive medical and treatment of any hypertension, hypercholesterolaemia or any other potentially compromising vascular disease.
  • Seek professional help to achieve smoking cessation.
  • Stop alcohol consumption.
  • Check your vision regularly for distortion or central vision loss

Nutrition and the eye: Age-related macular degeneration, Frank Eperjesi 2004 

Some nutritional supplements are available that are designed to combat AMD. It is important to note that these nutrients are not a cure for AMD, nor will they restore vision already lost from the disease. However, they may play a role in helping certain people at high risk from developing advanced AMD.  Ask your optician for more details.

The Amsler Grid

The grid on the front page is a quick and simple test, known as The Amsler Grid. It can help to determine whether you are experiencing the early symptoms of AMD, but remember it is not a substitute for an eye test. Please follow these simple instructions now:

  • Hold the grid around 12 inches (30cm) in front of your eyes.
  • If you wear reading glasses leave them on but do not wear varifocals or distance glasses.
  • Cover one eye with your hand and focus with your other eye on the centre dot.
  • Check that you can see all four corners of the grid.
  • If areas of the grid appear blurred, distorted, or in any way abnormal then you could be displaying the early signs of AMD. See your optician immediately.