Ask the Optician: Macular degeneration


THERE WAS an alarming recent case of unregulated stem cell treatment for macular degeneration in the US going wrong and causing blindness.

This has led to increased interest in macular degeneration and how to treat it, so this will be the focus of this month’s column.

Q: What is macular degeneration?
A:Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of severe vision loss for people over the age of 55 in the western world. It is a degenerative retinal eye disease that causes progressive loss of central vision. It affects the macula, the part of the retina that enables our most acute and detailed vision for tasks such as reading, driving, recognising faces and watching television.

Q: Is there anything that makes you more likely to get it?
A: According to the World Health Organisation the only established modifiable risk factor is smoking. People who smoke more than double their risk of developing AMD.

Q: Apart from quitting smoking can you do anything to prevent it?
A: Various studies indicate a link between eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, particularly carotenoids, lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene and vitamins C and E and reduced risk of macular degeneration. Experts believe they can have a positive effect as they work to neutralise potentially cell-damaging molecules called ‘free radicals’ which are thought to harm the eye’s lens and macula.

Q: What are the treatment options?
A: The stem cell treatment we mentioned earlier is experimental and has not been FDA approved, so is risky, but there are other approved options such as anti-angiogenic drugs, laser therapy and surgery. The earlier you get a diagnosis of AMD, the greater the chance that treatment will help, so make sure you visit the optician every year if you’re over 65 and that your eye test includes testing for AMD.

Amrik Sappal, Store Director and Optometrist, Specsavers Opticas Fuengirola

Specsavers Opticas are currently offering free eye tests. Visit to find your nearest store and book.

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