What is the Macula?
The word “macula” comes from the Latin word meaning “spot.” The macula is a very small portion of the retina centrally positioned at the back of the eye ball. It is allows us to see directly in front… and is responsible for our central vision. About the size of a pencil eraser, the macula is loaded with photoreceptors that enable us to read, write, watch television, drive, sew, etc. — anything that requires focused, precise vision. (The retina at the back of the eyeball is a very sensitive layer of tissue, which converts the incoming light projected onto the retina screen, into images and then sends them to the brain). The macula is also the mechanism responsible for our being able to see different colours.
What is Macular Degeneration?
The small macular cells sometimes become damaged. This can occur in many ways. Damage to these cells in later-life is termed (age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The good news is that the disease is not painful, and, as it never affects the peripheral vision, the person with AMD will never be totally blind. There are two types of AMD, these being:
Dry AMD – Most common (90% of all AMD) and for which there is no treatment
Wet MD – Accounts for 10% and here it does respond to treatment in the early stages
What causes AMD?
Whilst there are various theories, but the precise cause is at this stage unknown.
What are the symptoms of AMD?
The progressive stages of macular degeneration
An example of what a person suffering from Macular Degeneration sees.
In the early stages, the central vision is blurred or distorted, and the disease can progress either relatively quickly or over a few months
How common is macular Degeneration
• The number of people living with macular degeneration is similar to that of those who have been diagnosed with the most prevalent invasive cancers.
• As many as 11 million people in the United States have some form of age-related macular degeneration. This number is expected to double to nearly 22 million by 2050.
• The number of people living with macular degeneration is expected to reach 196 million worldwide by 2020 and increase to 288 million by 2040.
• Age is a prominent risk factor for age-related macular degeneration. The risk of getting advanced age-related macular degeneration increases from 2% for those ages 50-59, to nearly 30% for those over the age of 75.
Source of information Bright Focus Foundation – Cure in mind. Cure in sight
What treatment is available for AMD?
For the “wet “ type AMD
There are a few treatments available: One can for example have anti-VEGF injections. This involves having a virtuous jelly injected into the eye. This is intended to stop the growth of new blood cells. If given at the right time it can stop further vision deterioration; and is even in some cases said to improve sight. These injections (commencing with three), are normally given over a period of 12 weeks.
There is also treatment known as Photodynamic Therapy. This treatment involves infusing a light sensitive drug through the blood stream (similar to a flourescein angiogram). This is intended to identify new blood vessels growing in the ‘wrong’ place behind the retina, that form with wet AMD. A cold laser is then shone into the eye which activates the drug stopping the new blood vessels from growing and assisting to prevent them causing too much damage – however it does not always work.
For the “dry” type AMD
There is currently no known effective medical treatment.
So what can I do?
It is best to consult with specialist organisations, who supply magnifiers, and will be able to advise you on how to maximise the use of your side (or peripheral vision) and how to make the most of your remaining sight. Attending support group meetings, comprising of other people suffering from the same disability, can also prove very useful.