What is Macular Degeneration?

The macula is the part of the retina at the back of the eye that provides our central vision. It is particularly important for activities such as reading or watching TV.

Age-related Macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition that becomes more common as we get older. It is divided into two types: dry and wet. Dry AMD can be thought of as ‘wear and tear’ on the macula. Over time, if this wear and tear becomes significant, central vision can be affected. Wet AMD occurs when a new blood vessel grows into the macula, leaking blood and fluid. Left untreated, this can lead to scarring in the macula and loss of central vision.

How is Macular Degeneration diagnosed?

AMD is diagnosed through careful examination of the macula, along with additional tests.

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) provides a highly detailed, cross-sectional image of the macula. It is very useful for detecting fluid in the macula, which is one of the typical signs of wet AMD.

Fluorescein Angiography is the gold standard test for diagnosing wet AMD. A small needle is placed into your arm, and fluorescein dye is injected into your circulation. A camera with special filters takes photos of the macula as the dye circulates. If wet AMD is present, the new blood vessel can be identified as the dye leaks from the vessel. This test is very safe and takes 10-15 minutes to perform.

How is Macular Degeneration treated?

We do not currently have a treatment that can cure dry AMD, but it can be slowed down. Stopping smoking, and in some cases, taking nutritional supplements, can reduce the rate of progression of dry AMD.

Fortunately, we have an effective treatment for wet AMD in the form of intraocular injections. Injections can preserve vision in most patients, and improve vision in more than one third of patients. Injections are performed under local anaesthesia in a dedicated procedure room.

How should I monitor my macula?

Symptoms such as loss of central vision, blurring of central vision and distortion can suggest macular disease. A quick and easy way to check your macula and central vision is to use an amsler grid, a copy of which (with instructions) can be downloaded on this page. It is important to see your ophthalmologist if you have any symptoms that could suggest AMD, or if you are concerned about your macula.

3 Essential questions and considerations to discuss with Dr Raj:
  1. OCT and angiograms are key investigations in AMD. Make sure your ophthalmologist takes you through these important tests, and discusses the results with you in detail.
  2. If you have AMD, it is important to ask your ophthalmologist to take the time to explain your diagnosis and the best treatment options available to you.
  3. Intraocular injections require experienced hands, especially to ensure that the procedure is as comfortable as possible.