Macular Degeneration is Australia’s leading cause of severe vision loss and blindness, but many still wrongly confuse symptoms of the disease as a normal sign of ageing. Affecting more than 1.15 million Australians over 50, it is set to increase to 1.7 million by 2030, without appropriate prevention and treatment measures.

The most common symptoms include difficulty in reading or doing any other activity that requires fine vision, distortion where straight lines appear wavy or bent, distinguishing faces becomes a problem and dark patches or empty spaces appear in the centre of your vision.

Although the condition may not make itself apparent until later in life, preventative measures can be started much earlier. Smoking damages the cells in your retina and more than doubles the risk of age related Macular Degeneration. To protect your retina from the impact of harmful UV rays, wear good quality sunglasses with 100% UVA protection. Eat well, as research suggests that diets rich in carotenoids found in leafy green vegetables, such as raw carrot, broccoli and raw spinach can reduce the risk of Macular Degeneration. Be self aware, between visits to your eye health professional, those over 50 should monitor for changes in vision by using an Amsler grid, a simple tool which tests for symptoms of Macular Degeneration.

A chronic disease, Macular Degeneration, can be diagnosed through regular eye tests that examine the retina. Early detection is crucial as there are a great number of treatment options available to slow the progression of the disease. Macular Degeneration Week highlights the need for Australians to get sight smart and to consider having regular eye examinations.

Sandra Tiltman  

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