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Illusions Optometrists Highlight Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Thursday 7 December 2017, 4:32PM
By Beckie Wright

Illusions Optometrists explain how in age-related macular degeneration waste products build up under the light sensing layer of cells. These waste products are usually transported away from the eyes in the blood, but in macular degeneration this transport function is greatly reduced.

The build-up of waste products in the cells affects the ability of these cells to function properly, and eventually they begin to die. As the cells die, vision starts to gradually deteriorate and become distorted. This is called dry (or atrophic) macular degeneration.

There is currently no cure for dry macular degeneration, but things which can sometimes help to reduce the rate at which it gets worse include eating lots of green leafy vegetables, plenty of oil-rich fish, and supplementation with vitamins C and E, as well as copper, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin (these supplements come as a specific formulation from the pharmacy). Some supplements come with Beta-carotene included, but if you have smoked in the past you must avoid this ingredient as it can increase the risk of lung cancer in past/present smokers.

If you are diagnosed with dry macular degeneration, you will be given an Amsler grid which you test one eye at a time with. If you notice any sudden increase in distortions or changes in vision, you must contact your optometrist immediately, as these symptoms are likely to indicate a shift to the wet form of macular degeneration.

Wet macular degeneration is far less common than the dry form. It occurs when waste products build up under the light sensing layer of cells in such great quantities that part of the light sensing layer is pushed away from it’s normal place at the back of the eye. This deprives the light sensing cells of oxygen from the blood vessels at the back of the eyes. To try to restore oxygen to the light sensing cells, new blood vessels start growing, but these are leakier than the normal blood vessels and cause hemorrhages (leakage of blood from the vessels). This bleeding is what causes the sudden distortions/reduction in vision, and the resulting scarring can destroy parts of the light-sensing layer of cells.

If you are diagnosed with wet macular degeneration, then surgery is performed as soon as possible to limit the damage caused by the hemorrhages and scarring. Injections are also given to try to stop more new blood vessels from growing.

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