Macular Degeneration

Retina showing macula luteaHave you had your macula checked? How is it? If you watch TV, you may have seen the advertisements. But what is a macula, and what is macular degeneration? (This page is concerned with age related macular degeneration, which affects people over 50.)

‘Macula’ is short for Macula Lutea, which means yellow spot. The macula is the most sensitive part of your eye. As you read this, the lens in your eye projects the words upside down and back-to-front on your macula.

The macula has millions of receptor cells (your eyes’ light detectors) jammed in to a small space. The cells are so tightly packed, they look like a honeycomb. It’s no wonder that the macula is where things are likely to go wrong.

What goes wrong in macular degeneration?

The retinal pigment epithelium is the retina’s garbage disposal. In macular degeneration, the pigment epithelium stops doing its job, and waste products begin to build up.

Your optometrist can see the build-up, and it can be photographed. This is the ‘dry’ form of macular degeneration. There is no treatment for this at present, but suitable vitamin/mineral/antioxidant supplements have been shown to delay vision loss.

Sometimes, new blood vessels will form in the macula. They may bleed. This is the ‘wet’ form of macular degeneration, which can be treated by an eye specialist with regular injections into the eye.