Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a condition in which the macula (the part of the retina responsible for sharp reading vision) fails to function efficiently. It is a common cause of impaired reading or detailed vision - the leading cause of blindness worldwide, in fact. Macular degeneration is generally age-related.

Symptoms: Initial signs include blurred reading vision, a weakening of colour vision, distortion or loss of central vision (e.g., a dark spot in the middle of your field of vision), and distortion in vertical lines.

A simple test that can help to identify early changes at the macula, or to monitor changes if a known problem is present, is the "Amsler Grid". Test yourself here.

Treatment: Although there is no cure, laser treatment can be effective in slowing the disease's progression. In recent years there has been a leap forward in drug treatments for the condition with the likes of Lucentis, Avastin etc and there are many cases now where progression of the disease has been slowed, halted and even to a degree, reversed. As usual, early detection is key.

Prevention: Lifelong UV protection is very important. General nutrition is also believed to play a significant preventative role. Zinc may be especially helpful in this regard, particularly for zinc-deficient people like seniors. There is also some evidence to suggest that a diet high in beta carotene (vitamin A) and vitamins C and E can protect the macula. However, an over-abundance of any vitamin may affect your body's ability to absorb important nutrients. This is a matter of some debate among health care professionals.