Shared from the 10/4/2018 The Age Digital Edition eEdition

Regular check-ups may stave off blindness


The team at Melbourne Comprehensive Eye Surgeons includes Dr Heathcote Wright, second from right.

Early intervention helps people with macular degeneration stay independent for longer.

Macular degeneration is the most common form of blindness in our society. Vigilance and prompt specialised care can help sufferers retain their independence.

“Age-related macular degeneration is a very common condition that frequently affects older people,” says Dr Heathcote Wright, from Melbourne Comprehensive Eye Surgeons.

There are two forms of macular degeneration. The first is the ‘dry’ form which is a slow, relentlessly progressing condition, gradually causing loss of vision over decades. In the early stages small, central areas of vision loss or distortion occur.

“About 10 per cent of the population with the dry form of macular degeneration will at some point in their lives convert to the ‘wet’ form. This is when a blood vessel goes through from the back of the eye to the retina and causes bleeding. This results in rapid vision loss,” Dr Wright says.

People with the wet form of macular degeneration need to have regular eye injections, initially once a month but often extending to once every eight- to 10 weeks, often for the rest of their lives.

“If someone gets the wet form of macular degeneration and they come in and have treatment, within one or two weeks of noticing the change in their symptoms, then they are very likely to have a really good result from ongoing eye injections,” Dr Wright says. ‘‘If they don’t start injections within a couple of months of noticing symptoms, the chance of maintaining good vision is dramatically reduced.”

Dr Wright is a cataract and glaucoma surgeon at Melbourne Comprehensive Eye Surgeons’ purpose-built clinic in Bellfield, between Ivanhoe and Heidelberg.

The clinic provides comprehensive coverage of eye care, including cataract surgery, laser vision correction surgery, corneal, glaucoma and oculoplastic surgery.

One of the most significant issues for people who develop wet macular degeneration is that they may not realise there is a problem.

“If you have macular degeneration and have a bleed in one eye and the other eye remains healthy, you won’t necessarily notice the change in vision unless you cover the good eye,” he says.

Patients with dry macular degeneration are encouraged to use an Amsler grid each week. The grid has a central dot and if you stare at the dot, the lines should be straight. If you have a bleed, the lines may become wavy or the squares blurred or distorted.

“A change in the appearance of the Amsler grid is the trigger that something has gone wrong. This is the point at which people should come in and see us so we can initiate treatment quickly and give them the best chance of maintaining clear vision.”

Melbourne Comprehensive Eye Surgeons has a free public access injection clinic that is also available for people with diabetes and vein occlusions. They are one of the few clinics in Melbourne that bulk-bill for eye injections.

They have state-of-the-art Zeiss diagnostic equipment to facilitate a prompt and accurate diagnosis and an in-house procedure room to perform injections with a minimum of discomfort.

“If people come in early enough they generally maintain good vision and can stay independent for longer,” Dr Wright says.

‘We can initiate treatment quickly and give them the best chance of maintaining clear vision.’

- Dr Heathcote Wright

Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risk. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.

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