What is Macular Degeneration?
How do I know if I have it?
You may have heard of the term Macular Degeneration, perhaps a family member has it. But what is it, are you at risk, and what can you do to prevent this from happening to you?
What is a macula?
To explain what macular degeneration is and the effect it causes, perhaps we should start from the beginning and explain what, in fact, is the macula?
The macula is the very central part of the retina (the inside part of your eye that perceives images). This part of the eye is made up of very large numbers of cone photoreceptors (i.e. pixels on a screen) - and subsequently is the part that provides you with the most detailed vision (i.e. highest resolution).
In a healthy eye, this is the part of the eye you are using to read fine print, look at people's faces, and even to judge colour.
What happens in macular degeneration?
Essentially, the macula is damaged - this is commonly caused by oxidative stress. Common causes for this include smoking, large amounts of UV exposure, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.
There is certainly a genetic component, and the disease is more prevalent amongst those with light-coloured irides, typically presenting later in life.
The oxidative damage results in an accumulation of metabolic waste in the macular region (yellow spots in the picture above) that the eye is unable to clear. This gradually causes atrophic changes to the nerve fibres around it, and your clarity of vision drops in an irreversible manner.
How do I know if I have macular degeneration?
There are a few simple tests you can do at home, albeit not definitive. One way is to look at an Amsler grid. By looking at the dot in the middle with one eye at a time, and simultaneously paying attention to the lines on the grid surrounding it, you are watching for any waviness/distortions on the grid itself. If you are able to find a spot of distortion that is constantly in that region of field of view, that could (although not definitively) represent macular changes as a result of degeneration.
The best way to diagnose it is using an OCT, or even better, an OCT Angiography machine such as the REVO Optopol machine that we have.
Help keep your eyes healthy and disease-free by snacking on sunflowers seeds, which are excellent sources of vitamin E and zinc.
In moderation, lean beef in your diet can boost your eye health. Beef contains zinc, which helps your body absorb vitamin A and may play a role in reducing risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration.