Macular Degeneration: Do you know what your macula is doing?

It’s Macular Degeneration Awareness Week! 

As an ophthalmologist who takes care of many people with Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), I wanted to help the Macular Disease Foundation Australia in helping raise awareness about this leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia.  One in seven Australians over 50 show some evidence of macular degeneration. Macular Degeneration Awareness Week (22-28 May 2016) is an initiative of Macular Disease Foundation Australia to raise awareness of this chronic disease and to encourage all Australians over age 50 to have an eye test and macula check


What is macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration is the name given to a group of degenerative diseases of the retina that cause progressive, painless loss of central vision.  This affects the ability to see fine detail, drive, read and recognise faces.  Although there is no cure for AMD, there are treatment options that can slow down its progression, depending on the stage and type of the disease (wet, dry, and other forms). The earlier the disease is detected, the more vision you are likely to retain.

Both wet and dry forms of AMD begin in the Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE), a layer of cells underneath the retina. This RPE is responsible for providing the retina with oxygen, sugar and other essentials, while removing waste products from the retina and transporting them down to the blood vessels in the choroid.

AMD occurs when there is a problem with the removal of waste products.  The waste products from the retina build up underneath the RPE as drusen, which are yellow spots in the retina that can be easily identified by your eye care professional.  As AMD progresses, vision loss occurs because the RPE cells die or because the RPE cells fail to prevent blood vessels from the choroid from growing into the retina.

Who’s at risk?

Everyone over the age of 50 is at risk for this disease.  It is also more common in people with a family history of AMD and in those who smoke.  It is important to have your eyes examined by an eye specialist to be sure you don’t have any early signs of the disease. 

The Macular Disease Foundation Australia has a very helpful website (  It contains lots of different resources including information about AMD and diabetic retinopathy, a newsletter that covers the most recent research and ongoing clinical trials in the field, and offers advice on guidance and support of patients with macular disease.  It also has an excellent link to find an ophthalmologist or optometrist in your specific area. 

I have pointed many of my patients to the website for further information and support and most  have signed up for the quarterly newsletter.  They tell me that the information is written in an easy to understand fashion, as it simplifies complex medical terms, and it also offers them hope by providing information on potential future treatments.  If you have a macular disease or know someone who is suffering from a macular disease, please visit their website. 

Ross MacIntyre MD FRANZCO

Comprehensive Ophthalmologist

Melbourne, Australia

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