Macula Degeneration (MD) and Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)
Macular disease is the term for the condition that leads to loss of central vision due to damage to the macula. The macula is a small area of the retina at the back of the eye. It is a disc about 4.5mm across located in the centre of the retina.
Macular disease is the most common cause of visual impairment in the developed world. In the UK around 250,000 people are registered as visually impaired because of macular disease and roughly the same number are affected by it to a lesser degree.
While it can occur in younger people (from school age onwards) in the form of juvenile macular dystrophies this is rare and it is more common in older people, from age 60 onwards. When macular disease occurs later in life it is usually called age-related macular degeneration or AMD or even ARMD.
Macular degeneration is divided into two clinical types, 'dry' and 'wet' MD. The 'Dry' type is the most common by far, it is slow in onset and causes a gradual deterioration in the qualty of central vision. Usually is it first noticed as difficulty reading small print even when wearing spectacles. At present there is no effective treatment but research has shown that specific vitamin and mineral supplements can be beneficial in slowing the progress of the disease.
'Wet' AMD on the other hand is sudden in onset, causing a major loss of vision, usually in one eye, often with marked distortion (bending or kinking of straight lines). There is an effective treatment for this type of AMD but is needs to be administered as soon as possible to give the best result. An urgent appointment with an optometrist is advisable as soon as the symptoms are noticed when at the examination the cause of the vision loss will be identified. If wet ARMD is suspected the optometrist will arrange for a speedy direct referral to a specialist eye clinic.
Further information is available from The Macular Disease Society