This week, during Macular Degeneration Awareness Week (May 21 to 27), Optometry Australia is encouraging Australians over the age of 50 to get a potentially sight-saving eye test.
In Australia today, there are 1.25 million people who have some prevalence of macular degeneration and 8 million Australians who are “at risk”.
Age-related macular degeneration is a slowly-progressing eye disease which, according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics accounts for 50% of legal blindness in Australia.
Age-related macular degeneration generally occurs as a result of changes in the macula due to ageing, which cause your central vision to blur. With the baby boomer population ageing, the number of people with the disease is expected to triple in the next 25 years.
An eye test can save your sight
Some older people might think seeing an optometrist is like closing the gate once the horse has bolted. This is not true. Older Australians shouldn’t delay seeking help.
Although there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are treatment options that can slow down its progression and help manage associated complications, depending on the stage and type of the disease (wet, dry, and other forms). The earlier that the disease is detected, the more vision you are likely to retain.
Your optometrist can also help you organise a home assessment in order to make things safer around the home and prescribe visual aids or low vision devices to help preserve your lifestyle.
Macular Degeneration Week is a great time to remind Australians to have an eye health conversation with their family. You have a 50% chance of inheriting the disease if there is a direct history of it in the family.
However, it’s not just those with a known family history who should be getting regular eye tests. 1 in 7 Australians over 50 have some evidence of macular degeneration.
Early detection of any form of macular degeneration is important because the earlier it is detected and treated, the better your vision is likely to be in the future. You can have the early signs without knowing.
Diet and lifestyle supports good macular health
In the eye, high doses of zinc in combination with other antioxidants, have been found to significantly reduce the risk of developing advanced macular degeneration. Zinc-rich food includes meat, seafood, beans and nuts. While not a cure or a means of repairing damage from MD, zinc may work to slow its progression.
Smoking is the single most controllable risk factor that contributes to the development of macular degeneration. Smoking causes vasoconstriction or narrowing of the blood vessels which reduces the blood supply to the eyes.
Things YOU can do for Macular Degeneration Week:
- Book an eye test and macula check with your optometrist in your local area.
- Order your macular degeneration information kit and Amsler grid online or by phoning the Helpline on 1800 111 709. Kits include information on macular degeneration, symptoms, risk factors, prevention measures, treatment options and how to test for changes in vision between visits to your eye health professional using an Amsler grid.
- Call the Foundation’s Helpline for information, understanding, guidance and support on 1800 111 709. The Foundation’s Helpline is available Monday to Friday (9am to 5pm AEST) and offers general disease information, plus understanding, guidance and support to those living with a macular disease, their family, friends and carers.
- Donate to the Macular Degeneration Foundation Australia today and help save sight!
- Attend this forum in Melbourne on Thursday 25 May: https://www.cera.org.au/events/2017-amd-info-forum/