Macular Degeneration

This May is Macular Degeneration Awareness Month.It’s estimated that 1.9 million Australians have some evidence of macular disease. The most common macular disease is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), with approximately 1 in 7 Australians over the age of 50 having some evidence of AMD.


What is the macular?

The macular is the name given to the area at the centre of the retina at the back of your eye. The macular itself is only about 5.5mm in diameter, but this small part of the eye is responsible for the detailed central vision.

This means that you use it for all the important activities such as reading, driving, recognising faces, and looking at fine details. The macular is also responsible for most of your colour vision.


What is age-related macular degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration cause the progressive loss of central vision. The loss of the central vision means that it affects the ability to read, watch tv, drive and recognise faces. By itself, AMD does not lead to total blindness as it does not affect your peripheral vision.

For some people, AMD advances very slowly and may not impact the vision too drastically. For others, the progression of AMD can be quite fast and lead to the loss of vision in one or both eyes.

While age is the biggest risk factor for developing Macular degeneration, another big factor is family history.

Smoking is also a big risk factor, being the single biggest modifiable risk factor of AMD.


How do you know if you have age-related macular degeneration?

You can have early signs of macular degeneration without knowing, this is why it is so important to have regular eye exams, including checks of the macular.

Some of the early stages of AMD it’s common for people to not notice any symptoms, but once the disease has progressed some symptoms include:

  • difficulty reading or any other activity which requires fine vision, even when wearing glasses
  • distortion, where straight lines appear wavy or bent
  • difficulty distinguishing faces
  • dark or blurred patches in the centre of your vision


Detection, Diagnoses and Monitoring AMD

Early detection of AMD is crucial to save sight.

The only way to diagnose AMD in the early stages is through an eye exam, including the check of the macular. This can be performed by any of our optometrists in-store.

In-store we have the latest technology which we use to do a full comprehensive eye exam. Our Optical Coherence Tomography scan (OCT) allows our optometrist to view the health of the eyes in greater detail, so we can see what’s going on beneath the surface of the eye. We also use Digital Retinal Imaging to see a clear detailed image of the back of your eye which our Optometrist analyses for any abnormalities that may be caused due to macular disease or other eye conditions.

Between visits with our optometrist, it’s also recommended to use an Amsler grid. This is an easy-to-use self-monitoring tool used to detect changes in the central vision.


Healthy Lifestyle

There are some things that you can do to keep your macular healthy. These can delay the onset or progression of AMD.

Most importantly, not smoking! This is a big lifestyle factor which is responsible for AMD.

Regular exercise, adopting a healthy lifestyle and protecting your eyes from the sun are all important factors recommended to help reduce the onset of AMD.

Keep your eyes healthy by following this guide:

  • eat dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily
  • eat fish two to three times a week
  • choose low glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates whenever possible
  • eat a handful of nuts a week
  • limit your consumption of fats and oils.


Nutrients for macular health


Lutein and zeaxanthin

Important antioxidants for eye health include lutein (pronounced loo-teen) and zeaxanthin (pronounced zee-ah-zan-thin). These are present in high concentrations in a healthy macula and help to protect your eyes.

Dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and silverbeet are high in lutein and zeaxanthin. To a lesser extent, you’ll find these nutrients in other vegetables such as corn, yellow capsicum, peas, pumpkin and Brussels sprouts and eggs.



Omega-3 fatty acids are also important to eye health. All fish and shellfish contain Omega-3s. Oily varieties of fish – such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, and trout – contain higher concentrations of Omega-3.

Aim to eat fish or seafood (fresh, frozen or tinned) two or three times a week.


Other nutrients

Other nutrients that support good macular health are:

  • zinc (oysters, seafood, nuts, and legumes)
  • vitamin E (nuts and grains)
  • vitamin C (citrus fruit, berries, and tomatoes)
  • selenium (nuts, particularly Brazil nuts).


Low GI carbohydrates

The glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels.

High GI carbohydrates produce a large, rapid rise in blood glucose. Low GI carbohydrates cause a lower, slower rise in blood glucose. Evidence shows eating more low GI foods lowers your risk of developing AMD.

Low GI foods include most fruit and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, wholegrain breads, and legumes. GI only applies to carbohydrates, so protein and dairy don’t have a GI.

People who have low GI diets tend to have a lower incidence of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and AMD. They also tend to have lower cholesterol.


Treatment and Research

There’s no cure for AMD. However, there is effective treatment in the form of eye injections for wet (neovascular) age-related macular degeneration. As a result of these treatments, thousands of Australians have kept their vision.

There is no treatment for early, intermediate or late-stage dry AMD. But changes to diet and lifestyle may help slow down the disease. In some circumstances, dietary or AREDS2 supplements may also help.

Researchers from Australia and around the world are looking for ways to cure AMD. They’re also looking for treatments for dry and earlier-stage AMD.



For more information about Macular Degeneration visit the Australian Macular Disease Foundation website.



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