In celebration of Macula Month, Dr Narme Deva joins us on the RANZCO blog to share some important advice about macula health. Dr Deva is a Consultant Ophthalmologist in New Zealand and a Medical Retinal Sub-Specialist. Following completion of her training in New Zealand, she spent several years at the prestigious Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. She also holds a Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Auckland for research into ocular wound healing modification.
This month RANZCO is celebrating Macula Month. Can you start by telling us why the macula is such an important part of a person’s sight?
The macula is part of the back of your eye that is responsible for your central vision, your colour vision and what allows you to perform fine detailed visual tasks. This is an important part of the eye as the macula is what allows you to recognise your family and friend’s faces.
What diseases commonly affect the macula?
The diseases that most commonly affect the macula include diseases that are inherited. Often a problem with the macula is one that you are born with. The most common condition that affects the macula is Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), and as the name suggests, this is a condition that increases in incidence as you get older. If left untreated, AMD can have devastating consequences for your vision. The other group of conditions that commonly affect the macula are due to blood vessel problems in the back of the eye from conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. These can cause leakage of fluid at the macula and can also cause vision loss or blindness.
When you first started out in medicine what inspired you to lean towards macula and retina related ophthalmology?
The macula is rather beautiful to look at. There is also a vast array of problems that can happen to the macula and retina. Many diseases that affect the body manifest in the retina and indicate a larger problem. It is quite an intellectual sub-speciality and we can manage a lot of problems now that we couldn’t before! I find the work very rewarding.
Why is raising awareness during macula month so important?
It is crucial that conditions of the macula are caught early as many can be treated and the treatments are considerably more effective if the condition is recognised in its early stages. A small amount of pathology at the macula can have a big impact on vision. It is important to spread the word about good macula health, talk to your family and friends about their experiences and be aware of family history of any diseases that particularly affect the eyes.
What is the most important advice that you give to your patients about macula health?
It’s never too early to be concerned about looking after your health. The most important advice I can give my patients about macula health is please don’t smoke, try to eat a diet that is rich in green leafy vegetables and regularly wear sun protection for your eyes.
When in a person’s life should someone start considering the health of their macula?
It is particularly important from your 50s onwards and if you have a family history of macula problems to be looking after your eye health. Additionally, if you have any other general health issues like diabetes or blood pressure it’s also important to consider your macula health and have regular eye checks.
What are the most important signs that a person needs to have their macula checked by an eye care professional?
If you notice any distortion with straight lines or letters in a word appearing slightly tilted, it’s very important to get your vision checked. Also, dark grey patches in your central vision is another important symptom that should prompt you to get your macula checked by an eye professional.