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    Awareness week 2006

    Macular degeneration silently taking away the sight of Australia’s ageing population.

    One of the most important health issues for all Australians

    “Macular degeneration (MD) is the leading cause of blindness in Australia and is silently taking away the sight of Australia’s ageing population,” announced Julie Heraghty, Chief Executive Officer for the Macular Degeneration Foundation.

    “While it affects the elderly, MD can also occur in younger people. Its onset can be sudden and dramatic resulting in central vision loss. It is imperative to inform and educate Australians about this alarming disease.”

    Age is a crucial risk factor, 1 in 7 Australians over the age of 50 is affected, which increases to 1 in 3 after the age of 75. “It’s important to have your eyes tested and make sure the macula is checked. Other risk factors include smoking and family history.”

    At 40 years old, guest speaker and Harvard Graduate, Elizabeth Carr has helped her father through macular degeneration. Her mother recently was also diagnosed and has commented, “if you have a family history, you have a 50 per cent chance of developing the disease. I urge people of all ages to have regular eye examinations and to take positive steps towards a healthy lifestyle, I know I am.”

    Eating for eye health should become an essential part of our diet and lifestyle. Simple steps to reduce the risk of MD include eating a diet rich in nuts, fish and dark green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit and controlling weight and exercising regularly. People should consider taking a zinc and antioxidant supplement in consultation with their doctor and also consider taking a lutein supplement.

    Julie highlighted, “one of the major risk factors for MD is smoking. This highlights the need for the public to be aware that smoking can cause blindness and that people who smoke should seek help to quit immediately. Recent research undertaken by the MD Foundation showed that in a survey of 1,532 respondents with MD, 42 per cent had smoked during their lives.”

    Earlier this year, the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) released a leading report including an economic model of the impacts of MD and the current and future costs to Australia. The study revealed that MD costs Australians $2.6 billion a year. A new treatment that could reduce the progression rate by only 10 per cent would save a considerable $5.7 billion over the next 20 years.

    “This report highlights the need for the Government to invest in research and to support the accessibility and affordability of treatment options. If you are in danger of losing your sight, which can affect your quality of life and independence, you have a right to access to the most effective treatment.”

    Posted: 2 June 2006

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