There is an alarming risk that people experiencing a symptom of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in Australia, will dismiss the symptom thinking they just need glasses or are experiencing computer related eye strain according to new research released today.
As part of this year's Awareness Week the Foundation commissioned a national Galaxy survey on symptom recognition:
- Only 13% of those people surveyed were able to name a symptom of MD, like difficulty in seeing faces, or straight lines appearing wavy or bent.
- For people 50 years and over experiencing symptoms of MD, 60% thought they just needed glasses, and 25% dismissed a symptom as computer related eye strain.
Macular Degeneration Foundation CEO, Julie Heraghty said, "Early detection is critical to saving sight. If you experience any sudden change in vision you should see an optometrist or ophthalmologist urgently. Any difficulty with vision should never be dismissed as just needing glasses, getting older or computer related eye strain. Dismissing symptoms and not seeking advice risks blindness."
Almost no one (5%) surveyed is aware of the Amsler Grid which can be used daily to test for symptoms of macular degeneration.
Sydney based ophthalmologist, Dr Paul Beaumont said, "If you look at the Amsler grid and see wavy, broken or distorted lines, or blurred or missing areas of vision you may have macular degeneration and should contact your eye care professional urgently."
Macular degeneration symptoms may include one or more of the following:
- Difficulty with reading or any other activity with fine vision.
- Distortion where straight lines appear wavy or bent.
- Distinguishing faces becomes a problem.
- Dark patches or empty spaces appear in the centre of your vision.
Macular degeneration is hereditary with a 50% chance of developing the eye condition if a family history is present. Leading business woman, journalist, author and Patron of the Macular Degeneration Foundation, Ita Buttrose knows this only too well, following her late father's loss of central vision due to macular degeneration.
Ita Buttrose said, "My father, also a journalist and author, lost his central vision to macular degeneration in his mid-80s. It changed his life. He always started his day by reading the newspaper. Suddenly this was no longer possible. When I tell people I have a 50 percent chance of getting it too, most people are usually shocked."
"People need to also know that nutrition and lifestyle are key aspects of good eye health and can reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration. Most importantly, if you are over 50 go and have your eyes tested and make sure the macula is checked," said Ms Buttrose.
To order a free information kit including a magnetic Amsler Grid call the Macular Degeneration Foundation on 1800 111 709.
Dr Paul Beaumont and Ita Buttrose
Get Involved - What Can You Do?
You can help to spread the word during MD Awareness Week by:
- Promote the key message "have your eyes tested and make sure your macula is checked" to your family, friends and local community.
- Encourage people you know to call the MD Foundation and request a free information kit on 1800 111 709.
- Call the MD foundation to organise a free MD Education Session for your community group if you live in the Sydney or Perth areas.
- Organise a MD fundraising event in your local community.
- Volunteer for the MD Foundation.
MD Key Messages:
- MD can affect those under 50
- Make sure you tell all your family members that you have MD
- Make family members aware of the hereditary factor (50% chance of developing MD)
- Make young people, especially any grandchildren, are aware of the link between smoking and blindness - they may listen to granny!
- Make sure all your relatives phone the MD Foundation to get their free info kit
- Make sure you use your Amsler Grid and you know the symptoms for MD. Early detection is critical to saving sight.
- If you experience any sudden change in vision you should see an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist urgently.
- Any difficulty with vision should never be dismissed as just needing glasses, getting older or computer related eye strain.
- Dismissing symptoms and not seeking advice risks blindness.
23 May 2010