Macular degeneration—are you at risk?

Back to all news 16 May 2017

Your eye works similar to a camera with the lens at the front of your eye focusing the image onto the retina at the back of the eye. The image is sent from the retina through the optic nerve and interpreted by your brain.

The macula is the centre of the retina and is responsible for your central, detailed vision – reading, distinguishing faces, driving a car and any other activities which require fine vision. Macular degeneration (MD) a degenerative disease of the retina that causes progressive, painless loss of central vision. 

Macular degeneration occurs when waste products from the retina build up underneath the Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE) a layer of cells beneath the retina. These deposits, known as 'drusen', are easily seen by your eye care professional as yellow spots. In the early stages of MD, when drusen first appear, you may not realise anything is wrong and you may still have normal vision. That is the best time to detect the disease. 

There is no cure for MD, but various treatment options can slow down its progression, depending on the stage and type of the disease. The earlier the disease is detected, the more vision you are likely to retain. 

Risk Factors

Age - MD is primarily age-related, affecting one in seven people over the age of 50, in Australia.

Family History - People with a family history of MD have a 50% chance of developing the disease.

Smoking - Smokers, and people that have smoked, are three times more likely to develop MD.

Macular degeneration has few symptoms in the early stages, so it is important to have your eyes examined regularly. If you are at risk for MD because of age, family history, lifestyle, or some combination of these factors, you should not wait to experience changes in your vision before getting checked for MD. If you notice distortion or blurred vision, even if it doesn’t affect your daily life, consult an eye care professional.