She’s only 22, but already Jessica Falon is making the changes necessary to try to prevent the macular disease that has blinded her grandmother.
“When Nana was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), I didn’t know much about it, so I did my own research – a lot of reading,” the Sydney University medical student said.
“I understand the hereditary aspect of the disease and so even though the prospect of macular disease seems in the distant future, my sister and I have talked about our vision. We have an Amsler grid on the fridge, and we are incorporating macula friendly foods into our meals,” Jessica said.
“It’s not that big of a change really, but we make a habit of putting spinach in just about everything and plenty of oily fish!”
Jessica’s grandmother, Helen, has wet AMD. By the time Helen saw a specialist, her AMD was “really quite advanced”.
Jessica said, in hindsight, it was clear her grandmother had been experiencing vision problems for some time.
“She loves cooking and she was starting to make little mistakes, like putting salt in food instead of sugar or not being able to find things but it was quite a gradual thing.
“She lost her husband quite a long time ago, so she was a very independent woman. It has been quite hard to watch her lose that independence,” Jessica said.
“She’s quite stoic – in the German way – and doesn’t express distress, but you can sense her frustration. Stoic. That’s a good word for it.
“Her vision loss has impacted her life in a big way. Only late year she stood up from a chair, didn’t see her slippers and tripped over. She fractured her knee and was in hospital for a month. She’s good now and up and walking but it seems just the smallest thing – to not see a pair of slippers.
“If you know AMD is something in your family, have a conversation about it. I have seen just how much AMD impacts Nana and the changes I have made to my diet and lifestyle are so easy.
“I can’t guarantee that making those changes will stop me from getting AMD, but I can support the health of my macula. I can get regular macula checks and monitor my vision as I get older. If I can better my chances in any way, it is got to be a big win,” Jessica said.
For more information on AMD and other macular diseases, please contact Macular Disease Foundation Australia. MDFA operates a free National Helpline to provide information and support to members of the macular disease community, their families and carers.
May is Macula Month, an initiative of MDFA to raise awareness of macular disease and the need for regular comprehensive eye examinations.