Everyone knows how much sight is a precious sense. To obtain an accurate diagnosis and an appropriate correction if necessary, our clinic is equipped with state-of-the-art instruments: Retinal camera, Automated visual fields, Biometry, Topography, Pachymetry etc.
Macular degeneration is an age-related disease that gradually destroys the area of the macula, hence the central vision. It is the main cause of vision loss after 60 years. In some cases, the disease progresses so slowly that it will have little effect on vision. On the other hand, in others, the disease progresses rapidly and the loss of central vision will be in one or both eyes.
The retina is a nerve tissue that lines the inner bottom of the eye and is thin as a sheet of paper. It is the retina that sends the nervous messages to the brain.
THERE ARE TWO FORMS OF MACULAR DEGENERATION:
"dry" or "atrophic" degeneration: 90% of people have this form of degeneration. Although the causes of this form of disease are still poorly understood, there is the loss of visual cells in the macula and a gradual loss of central vision. Currently, there is no surgical treatment for the atrophic form, but research is ongoing.
Degeneration by uplift of the macula: in this case, we observe the formation of new abnormal blood vessels under the retina, which has the effect of raising the retina and of altering the vision. These newly formed blood vessels are very fragile and often there will be haemorrhage and presence of fluid under the macula.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS?
Age is the main risk factor. Before the age of 60, the risk is about 2% and this percentage rises to 30% after the age of 75.
Other factors identified include:
- The sex of the person: women are at greater risk for this disease than men
- Race: Caucasians are at greater risk than black people
- Smokers: smoking increases the risk of macular degeneration
SYMPTOMS OF MACULAR DEGENERATION:
Whatever its form, macular degeneration does not cause pain. It is rather a blurred vision, especially in the center of the field of vision. Details become less visible on faces or words in a book. At a later stage, there will be a black area in the center of the vision.
Another common symptom is to see straight lines that look distorted. This results from the fluid coming from the blood vessels: this fluid raises the central portion of the retina and this distorts the vision.
HOW TO DETECT MACULAR DEGENERATION?
Your optometrist will ask you relevant questions and perform a fundus examination. She can then observe using a device, called ophthalmoscope, the central region of the retina.
She will also be able to show you a grid of Amsler (named after his inventor) that looks like a checkers game. Changes in central vision will cause distortion in the lines you will be looking at.
IS THERE TREATMENT FOR MACULAR DEGENERATION?
Laser surgery can sometimes help and treat degeneration causing the raising of the retina. The treatment consists of focusing the laser beam on the new blood vessels to destroy them.
There is no cure for the (most common) atrophic form of macular degeneration. On the other hand, studies show more and more that certain vitamins and minerals (antioxidants) can slow the progression of the disease. Clinique Optométrique Carole Martel encourages research on this disease and its treatment, in particular by being involved in the activities of the AMD Foundation (Fondation DMLA) and the Défi Pierre Brise-Bois in Lasalle.