Macular disease is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia and Macular Disease Foundation Australia is urging all Australians to learn about their risk and take action to protect their sight.
Macula Month, which runs from 1–31 May, aims to raise awareness of macular disease. The most common macular disease is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a chronic and progressive disease of the macula, which can lead to loss of central vision.
The focus of the Macula Month campaign this year is the hereditary risk of AMD.
“If you have a parent, brother or sister with AMD, you are at increased risk of AMD,” MDFA CEO Dee Hopkins warned.
“Another major risk factor is age. AMD primarily affects those over the age of 50 and the incidence increases as people get older.”
One in seven Australians over the age of 50 – about 1.3 million people – have some evidence of AMD but may not know it because the earlier stages of disease typically have little or no impact on vision,” she said.
AMD can be diagnosed with a comprehensive eye examination that includes a macula check.
The most common symptoms of AMD include:
- Difficulty in reading or doing any other activity that requires fine vision;
- Distortion, where straight lines appear wavy or bent;
- Problems distinguishing faces;
- Dark patches appearing in the centre of your vision.
You should always check with your eye health professional about any changes in your vision.
Although AMD may not become apparent until later in life, preventative measures can be started much earlier.
Our top tips for optimal macular health are:
- Visit an optometrist once every two years if you are 50 years and over (every year if over 65), or as advised by your eye health professional, to look for early signs of AMD;
- Don’t smoke – smokers are at 3 to 4 times higher risk of AMD than non-smokers;
- Exercise regularly and eat a macula friendly diet – fish two or three times a week, dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily, and a handful of nuts once a week can help reduce risk of AMD;
- Protect your eyes from sunlight exposure;
- Monitor changes in your vision by using an Amsler grid if you have signs of AMD – an Amsler grid is a simple tool available free from MDFA.
Contact MDFA for information on AMD and other diseases of the macula, advice on diet and lifestyle to help support the health of your macula on our National Helpline 1800 111 709.
You can also order a free Basic Macular Degeneration Information Kit, which includes a magnetised Amsler grid and provides further tips on prevention and early detection of AMD.