The 24th – 30th of June is Macular Week, a week long campaign to raise awareness of Macular disease in conjunction with The Macular Society. Macular disease is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK, with around 300 people diagnosed every day. It can affect people of any age — even children.
There are many resources available to help practitioners to explain the condition and we particularly like the attached publication from The Macular Society which can be used to outline the progression of the condition in a jargon-free way.
The cause of macular disease can be divided roughly into two categories; Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) and Juvenile Macular Dystrophies. There are many forms of macular disease, but ARMD is the most common, usually affecting people over the age of 50.
ARMD affects central vision – it may become blurry or distorted and gaps or dark spots may appear. As ARMD progresses, your ability to see clearly will change. However, it’s important to remember that no matter how advanced your macular degeneration is, you will not lose all your sight as there is always some peripheral vision remaining.
The older we are the greater our risk of developing AMD. Around one in every 200 people has ARMD at 60. However, by the age of 90 it affects one person in five. We are all living longer so the number of people affected is increasing.
Juvenile macular dystrophies (JMD) affect people in different ways. However, as the dystrophy progresses, your ability to see clearly will change.
We are seeing increasing numbers of cases here at the OCCS relating to patient anxiety when progressing from dry to wet ARMD. An inevitable consequence of improving longevity and an expectation around quality of life in later years this situation does however present communication challenges for eye care practitioners.
There are a number of factors associated with the development of the condition such as age, genetics, smoking, diet, blood pressure, sunlight and gender. You cannot change your age or family history but lifestyle changes may help protect your eyes.
- DO NOT SMOKE. This is the most important self-help measure you can take. If you would like help to stop smoking speak to your GP.
- Maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure.
- Wear lenses that block UV and blue light, and reduce glare.
- Wear a hat with a brim or visor to shade eyes from direct sunlight.
- Have regular eye tests to spot problems.
- Monitor your vision to check for changes.
- Eat a diet low in saturated fats and rich in omega 3 fatty acids (e.g. oily fish, walnuts) and fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Don’t drink alcohol to excess.
- Take regular exercise.
DID YOU KNOW
The link between smoking at ARMD is stronger that the link between smoking and lung cancer.
Living with ARMD
Macular degeneration, in particular the wet form, is a very frustrating condition which can greatly affect your day to-day life. However, there is plenty of support and information available. Even if your sight is still good and you are having treatment, it’s important to know how to look after your vision and what to do if your ARMD reaches a stage where you struggle with daily tasks.
Undoubtedly the most effective way to protect your vision is to follow the advice of your eye care practitioner and attend for regular eye examinations. Remember eye examinations are free for those over the age of 60.
However for those diagnosed with dry form of Age related Macula Degeneration it can be useful to supplement your regular examinations with a simple daily self check.
How can you do this?
One of the simplest tests of macula health is the Amsler Grid. Whilst not as sophisticated as many of the technological developments now available in an optometric practice this simple test can be spot any sudden changes that could indicate the start of the progression from dry to wet ARMD and enable a treatment regime however time is of the essence when these changes start.
The Grid can be printed and placed somewhere prominent to remind you to check your central vision-on the fridge or a bathroom wall. It can now also be undertaken on a computer or tablet whilst wearing your reading glasses.
Download the attached pdf and follow to instructions to start a regime of self testing. Of course should you notice any changes to the appearance of the grid whilst looking at the central spot, changes such as curved lines or distortion, then you must contact your optometrist or GP immediately for advice and a full eye examination.
For more information about Macular Week and for resources relating to the disease visit http://www.macularsociety.org/ or download a helpful PDF via http://www.macularsociety.org/sites/default/files/resource/Macular%20Society%20Guide%20to%20AMD%20accessible%20pdf%20MS002%20JUN17.pdf