Macular Week 2018: What is Macular Degeneration?

Let’s start this week’s blog with a short biology lesson.  When light enters your eye and is directed through the lens, it hits the retina at the back of your eye, which then sends signals to the brain where this information is turned into images.  The macular is a specific part of the retina at the back of the eye, only about 5mm across, which is responsible for all of your central vision and colour vision, as well as picking up detail.  This is the area of the eye that we use for tasks such as reading and recognising faces.

Macular disease is currently the biggest cause of sight loss in the developed world, with the most common form of this being Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).  Degeneration of the macular is usually part of the general aging process of the body, in the same way as our hair may become grey.  There are however other causes of macular degeneration such as retinal haemorrhages or congenital impairments.

AMD results in a loss of central vision, and means that what you see when you look straight ahead seems blurry.  It doesn’t affect peripheral vision, so on its own will not cause a total loss of sight.  It can however still significantly affect people’s lives, with those who have AMD finding it difficult to drive, read and write, or distinguish a face against a background.

Macular Week, run 25 June – 1 July by the Macular Society, is an opportunity to raise awareness about and raise money to help find a cure for macular disease.  The focus this year is on how important it is to get regular eye tests.  Whether you’ve got a pre-existing eye condition or not, regular eye tests (at least once every two years) are a vital health check for everybody, as they can often detect the early signs of eye conditions before you notice any effect on your sight.  During Macular Week, you can download a free eye test voucher from the Macular Society’s website, where you can also find out more about how you can get involved with what’s going on during the week:

ELVis will be getting involved by attending an event held by the Macular Society in Barking and Dagenham on 3 July.  This will held 10.00-15.00 at the Ripple Centre, Ripple Road, Barking, IG11 7PB, and will be an opportunity for people with any form of sight loss to have a look at a variety of daily living equipment, to learn about other local sight loss services (including ELVis), and to attend a meeting of the local Macular Society, where they will talk about the latest research into macular conditions.  We look forward to seeing some of you there!

If you’re interested to find out what it might be like to have Age-Related Macular Degeneration, ELVis has just produced a video along with Waltham Forest Council which simulates the effects of AMD, as well as other eye conditions.  You can find this on our YouTube channel:

MacularDegenerationphoto - Macular Week blog
Photo of Macular Degeneration simulation – a grey spot in the centre surrounded by blurriness.

Written by Nicola Stokes, ELVis Service Development and Delivery Manager



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East London Vision (ELVis) is the subgroup for the 7 geographical areas that naturally cover all of east London north of the Thames: • Barking and Dagenham • City and Hackney • Havering • Newham • Redbridge • Tower Hamlets • Waltham Forest. ELVis is designed to provide an effective and efficient way of ensuring that vision impaired people living in East London get the support and services they need. It is an umbrella organisation with voluntary sector, user led representation in each of the east London boroughs. Our vision is that everyone living in East London experiencing, or at risk of, any form of sight loss, receives a high quality service relevant to their need and at a time appropriate for themselves. Our aim is to enhance & link vision impaired services and organisations throughout East London, improving the quality of life for blind and partially sighted people and increasing individual independence.

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