Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is a significant cause of profound vision loss in the Australian community, particularly among older Australians. Onset of ARMD is typically over 50 years of age, with the risk then progressively increasing with age.

This degenerative condition affects the macula, a small area at the centre of the retina. The macula is responsible for fine detailed vision, required for activities such as driving, reading and distinguishing colour. ARMD affects a person’s central vision, including both distance and near vision, and can lead to partial vision loss or blind-spot areas in the centre. The side (or peripheral) vision remains intact.

ARMD exists in two clinical forms: atrophic (dry) and exudative (wet). Current treatment options for dry ARMD are through vitamin supplementation and diet modification. Wet ARMD is managed using intraocular injection of anti-VEGF pharmaceutical agents. Early diagnosis and timely intervention are vital to preserving vision in ARMD.

Functional implications of ARMD include:

  • Being unable to differentiate between the footpath and road
  • Having difficulty identifying the edge of steps if there is no colour contrast
  • Being unable to determine traffic-light changes
  • Having difficulty reading, with blurred words and letters running together
  • Having difficulty distinguishing people’s faces
  • Having difficulty with close work
  • Misjudging the speed and distance of oncoming traffic when crossing the road
  • Having difficulty distinguishing between objects of a similar colour, due to dimming colour vision
  • Having sensitivity to glare and light
  • Having difficulty adjusting to lighting changes, especially in areas with low light
  • Perceiving straight lines as distorted or curved.

People with ARMD may be able to move around safely and with minimal difficulty, and locate items with their peripheral vision.

For further information, visit Macular Degeneration Foundation.

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