Mel Byrnes was diagnosed with wet macular degeneration in 2007 but considers himself fortunate. A retired pharmacist, he is acutely aware that if he hadn’t acted quickly upon recognising the symptoms of macular degeneration, he’d be telling a different story.
“I first noticed something was wrong with my vision when I woke one morning and there was a black spot on the ceiling. I tested my vision with my Amsler grid and straight away noticed the lines, once straight, were wavy and blurry. The next day I saw a retina specialist who gave me an injection in the right eye and I’ve been having regular injections ever since,” said Mel.
Those injections have saved Mel’s sight. His right eye hasn’t deteriorated further, and because wet macular degeneration was picked up in his left eye virtually before he had any symptoms, and he started treatment immediately, he has retained his sight in that eye too.
“I am now having injections in both eyes. I count myself fortunate as I can still drive, I can still read, and I can look after my wife Robin who, unfortunately, has frontal temporal dementia. I’d have been a different person now if these injections weren’t available.”
The strong genetic link associated with macular degeneration means there is a 50% chance of developing the disease if a direct family member has macular degeneration. Looking back Mel realises his father most likely had macular degeneration.
“My father was a soldier and when he came back from the war his eyesight had deteriorated. It was all put down to something that happened in the war, but looking back, I’m sure he must have had macular degeneration.”
“My two brothers have also been diagnosed with the same problem, so there is definitely a family correlation,” he said.
“I can only stress the importance of making sure that if you have macular degeneration, your immediate family is made aware of the need to have their macula checked regularly,” said Mel.