The macular in focus this May
May is Macula Month in Australia and we’re using this opportunity to bring you up to speed on this crucial part of your eyesight.
The key point is that early detection of macular degeneration could help preserve your vision. If that sounds useful, it might be worth reading on…
What is the macula?
The macular controls your detailed central vision from its home at the back of your eye. It may not be the most obvious part of your eye but it’s worth our attention for both how it contributes to clear vision and what can go very wrong, very quickly.
Image: Macular Disease Foundation Australia
How to keep your macular healthy
Being healthy in general helps your overall eye health. Keep your macular in shape by:
- getting regular eye checks
- maintaining a balanced diet rich in fish, dark green leafy veggies & fruit
- avoiding high glycaemic index carbs
- not smoking
- protecting your eyes from the sun
- exercising regularly and keeping off excess weight
- taking any supplements suggested by your doctor
What is macular degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a serious eye disease that causes loss of eyesight. It is progressive and degenerative, causing permanent loss of central vision. If you don’t get treatment, you can lose the ability to read, drive and even recognise faces. And it’s not just a normal part of ageing.
Some of the warning signs of macular degeneration are:
- visual distortion
- fuzziness, blurred vision in spots
- blind spots
- complete loss of central vision as it progresses
Know your type
Diagnosing which type of macular degeneration you have is really important. There are two major types: rapid progressing ‘wet’ macular degeneration and the slower ‘dry’ form. Only wet macular degeneration is treatable – the earlier the better.
Are you at risk?
It’s not a normal part of ageing, but it’s often age-related. Younger people can still get it though.
Macular degeneration risk factors:
- Being over 50 or over
- Eating too many high Glycaemic Index carbs
- A family history of the disease
Optometrists recommend that you get a general check-up every two years for all age groups. There’s a period at the beginning where macular degeneration is detectable before symptoms appear, so it’s well worth the effort.
If your optometrist bulk bills, the screening will be free.
For macular degeneration treatment, your optometrist might refer you to an eye specialist called an ophthalmologist.
Wet macular degeneration treatment
If you’ve got wet macular degeneration, your ophthalmologist might recommend treatments such as medication, surgery and laser therapy. Right now, macular degeneration can’t be reversed, but it can be slowed.
Dry macular degeneration treatment
As we flagged earlier, there’s no treatment. Your best option is to get all your lifestyle factors in order such as keeping a healthy diet and not smoking. Chat with your doctor about what you can do and get some diet advice. Also, dry macular degeneration can deteriorate into the rapid wet type, so be sure to get yourself checked out.
- Screenings for macular degeneration are free if your optometrist bulk bills.
- You can claim part of the cost of subsequent retinal photography on your Extras cover under Health Screening from your Health Management Benefits.
Claiming treatment for wet macular degeneration
- Your ophthalmologist may recommend laser surgery for your treatment. If so, check out our laser surgery guide for all the details on how to claim.
- American Academy of Ophthalmology
- Australian Society of Ophthalmologists
- Better Health Channel, Victorian Government
- healthdirect, Australian Government
- Macular Disease Foundation Australia
- The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists