When broadcaster Chris Smith was diagnosed with central serous chorioretinopathy, or CSC, he was surprised.
But when the 57-year-old heard about one of its major risk factors, he was not.
“It usually occurs in people who are in high-stress jobs,” says the busy 2GB radio journalist and Sky News television presenter.
People who have an ambitious, competitive, type A personality are more likely to develop the condition, where fluid leaks under the retina and reduces vision.
CSC affects young to middle-aged adults and is more common in men than women. Steroids, pregnancy and sleep disturbances are other risk factors.
People with CSC like Chris may experience blurred or decreased vision, distorted central vision where lines appear crooked or bent, a dark spot in their central vision, objects appearing smaller or further away than they really are, and colours appearing washed out.
“I have a patch, almost like a blind patch, in the middle of my sight in my right eye,” Chris says.
“So if I close my left eye and I stared at someone’s ear, I couldn’t see their ear; if I stared at someone’s eye, I couldn’t see their eye.
“This is a problem for me because I read an autocue at Sky quite often and if my left eye is tired or it’s bloodshot or it’s been out in the wind or something like that, I can really do it tough reading the autocue.”
Most cases of CSC will resolve spontaneously inside four months with fluid leakage being reabsorbed without the need for treatment, although Chris was successfully treated by eye care professionals.
Recovery may be accelerated by reducing risk factors like stress, although recurrences are common, occurring in up to half of patients within the first year of the primary episode.
Five years earlier, Chris was also diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration. But thanks to catching it early, changing his diet and doing more exercise, Chris has lost very little vision to AMD.
“It obviously upset me a lot, but it’s stabilised, and that’s a good thing,” he says.
“That was the end of all fatty food. I didn’t have any fatty food. I was lucky, I’ve got a nutritionist as a wife, so we have fish regularly. I do a little bit more exercise than what I was doing.
“The optometrists don’t see any discernible difference between how it’s been for the last five years, which is good.
“It’s not an acute form, it’s still mild, and this problem I have [CSC] is far greater for me at the moment than the actual AMD.”
Now Chris is encouraging every Australian over 50 to take the Check My Macula quiz to learn their risk factors for macular disease, then visit their optometrist for a potentially sight-saving eye exam.
One in seven Aussies over the age of 50 have some signs of AMD. But detect it early and treat yourself right, and you’ll give yourself the best chance of preserving your vision.
“The earlier they can get in and help you, the better it is,” Chris says.
“You don’t want to be blind. That deprives you of so many things in life, including spending time with your grandchildren and seeing the expressions on their faces. You don’t want to allow things to just go their way and end up blind.”
Get started on the quiz at www.CheckMyMacula.com.au.