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HomemistoryMacular Degeneration: the Risks

Macular Degeneration: the Risks

National Macular Degeneration Awareness Week – from 24 to 30 May – aims to raise awareness of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss among Australians. The message of the campaign is clear: Get your macular checked now!

For the past month or so, the Australian airwaves have been blitzed by a major media campaign to not only make people aware of Macular Degeneration and the fact that it’s Australia’s leading cause of blindness, but to convince the entire population to have their macula checked now.

The highlight of this campaign is Macular Degeneration Awareness Week from 24 to 30 May, which aims to save the sight of as many Australians as possible.

According to research released by the Macular Degeneration (MD) Foundation to launch MD Awareness Week, Australians are unaware of the importance of diet and lifestyle in reducing their risk of developing MD – Australia’s leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss.

the Australian airwaves have been blitzed by a major media campaign to not only make people awar of Macular Degeneration and the fact that it’s Australia’s leading cause of blindness, but to convince the entire population to have their macula checked now

More than one third (37 per cent) of those surveyed do not believe (or are not sure) any food is beneficial to eye health. Of those who are aware that some foods are beneficial for eye health, most are still confused about which foods are best. Low awareness levels were recorded for the ‘green and gold’ foods that are actually beneficial for eye health such as spinach (five per cent) and corn (zero).

“The most important thing you can do when it comes to MD, is to have your eyes tested and make sure the macula is checked, because we know at the foundation we are placing the Australian public and especially those at riskof MD int the care of the primary eye health care professionals for screening and guidance.” says the CEO of the MD Foundation, Julie Heraghty.

“While it’s encouraging to know that many Australians are heeding the Foundation’s call to have their eyes checked, it appears many are unaware of the important role nutrition and diet can play in promoting good eye health,” she adds.

“MD Awareness Week is an opportunity for all Australians to have their eyes tested, making sure the macula is checked, to understand the symptoms of MD for early detection and to start making simple, everyday dietary and lifestyle changes; the same way they would for heart disease or diabetes.

“Eating a healthy diet that includes the antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin as well as omega-3s, controlling weight, exercising regularly and not smoking will all help reduce the risk of developing MD. In consultation with a doctor, some may also consider an appropriate eye-health supplement,” she says.

To build awareness and make eating for eye health an easy part of everyday life, the MD Foundation has partnered with Australian media icon and Patron of the Foundation, Ita Buttrose, and leading Sydney Chef, Vanessa Jones, to develop the Eating for Eye Health cookbook.

Ita Told Me So

Ita Buttrose says she first became involved with the MD Foundation about three years ago because her late father Charles, a celebrated journalist and author, suffered from it as did his three siblings.

“Dad died about ten years ago, but he lost his lost his sight in his eighties. They know a lot more about it now than it was when dad got it,” Ms. Buttrose explains.

“He was diagnosed in that time, and when he did lose his vision, the MD Foundation didn’t even exist. I took him out to the Royal Blind Society and that’s where I found out what MD was. He wanted to stay at home, which he did and I made sure he had all the things possible that would make it easier for him to stay there. But it was terrible for him because as a journalist and author, he started the day reading the papers and that’s where I got it from. He loved to read books and he couldn’t see TV either,” Ms. Buttrose says.

Ms. Buttrose says she now has her macula regularly checked because she is in the high risk category.

“It is highly hereditary. There are three risk factors … age, smoking and family history. If it’s in your family your risk is high. I now have a 50 per cent chance.

That’s why I’m passionate about eye health and I’m involved with the MD Foundation.

“My message is get your macula checked. Don’t take your vision for granted. People do take their vision for granted and even when they are having problems with their eyes…they might be having slight problems with their vision, they ignore it and think ‘oh, I’m getting old…I’ll put up with it’. You should never put up with anything at all that’s not quite right with your eyes. You should go off to your optometrist or your eye specialist to get your eyes checked.

“It mightn’t be MD, but you should get your eyes checked and don’t take your vision for granted. And when you do get your eyes checked, make sure they check your macula,” Ms. Buttrose warns.

She suggests the public take note of the points to the cook book, Eating for Eye Health.

“It’s so easy and not a terrible thing to do. It’s delicious and if you eat more omega-3 and green vegetables and fresh fruit you’ll be doing your eyes a lot of good.

“And you know there is now treatment for the wet MD. It’s a significant breakthrough. It can’t cure it, but can stabilise it.

“In fact, dad’s youngest brother, Uncle Gerald, who’s about 88, has had the sight in one of the eyes saved thanks to this breakthrough. MD can be treated if caught early enough. Early detection and regular check-ups is vital…every two years,” says Ms. Buttrose.

About the MD Foundation

The Macular Degeneration Foundation is a national charity. It has a strong focus on early detection, risk reduction and treatment of Macular Degeneration. The MD Foundation is the peak body committed to working on behalf of the entire MD community, specifically those with the disease, their family and carers. The Foundation also provides support to eye care professionals. Raising awareness of the disease and its potential impacts has been and continues to be one of the key objectives of the Foundation.

For more information about MD, contact the Foundation on its free helpline 1800 111 709 or visit www.mdfoundation.com.au.

Macular Degeneration: The Facts

What is Macular Degeneration (MD)?

  • The macula is the central part of the retina, the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.
  • MD causes progressive damage to the macula resulting in central vision loss.
  • Central vision loss can affect your ability to read, recognise faces, drive and see colours clearly.
  • Early detection of MD & seeking treatment immediately is vital in saving sight.

How many Australians have MD?

  • MD is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia.
  • MD is responsible for 48 per cent of severe vision loss in Australia.
  • One in seven Australians over the age of 50 is affected by MD and the incidence increases with age and is often called Age- related Macular Degeneration or AMD

What’s the difference between Wet and Dry MD?

  • Dry MD results in a gradual loss of central vision.
  • Wet MD is characterised by a sudden loss of vision and is caused by abnormal blood vessels growing into the retina.

What are the symptoms of MD?

  • Difficulty in reading or doing any other activity which requires fine vision.
  • Distortion – straight lines appear wavy or bent.
  • Distinguishing faces becomes a problem.
  • Dark patches or empty spaces in the centre of one’s vision.

What are the risk factors for MD?
People over the age of 50, smokers and those with a family history of MD are most at risk of developing the disease.

What can you do to reduce your risk?

  • Have your eyes tested and make sure the macula is checked.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Keep a healthy lifestyle. Control your weight and exercise regularly.
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, eat fish two to three times a week, eat dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily and eat a handful of nuts weekly and limit your intake of fats.
  • In consultation with your doctor, consider taking an appropriate supplement for macula health which could include a zinc and antioxidant supplement; a lutein supplement; or a high strength lutein, zeaxanthin and concentrated omega-3s supplement.
  • Provide adequate protection for your eyes from sunlight exposure, particularly when young.

What treatments are available for MD?
Current Wet MD treatments aim to keep the best vision for as long as possible (and in some cases may potentially provide visual improvement) but there is presently no cure. However, early detection is critical in order to save sight. There is no treatment for Dry MD.

What is the MD Foundation?
The MD Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to reduce the incidence and impact of Macular Degeneration in Australia. The Foundation’s Patron is Ita Buttrose AO. The Foundation’s objective is to provide education, awareness, research, and support services; as well as be the voice of the MD Community.

Eating for Eye Health – Recipes with a Vision

The Macular Degeneration Foundation says nutrition can play a vital role in reducing the risk of Macular Degeneration…and with that in mind, the Foundation has launched a cook book called, Eating for Eye Health. This book gives Australians the tools they need to make simple, everyday changes to their diets to promote good eye health.

‘Eating for Eye Health’ is a partnership between the Macular Degeneration Foundation, Australian media icon and Foundation Patron, Ita Buttrose, and leading Sydney chef, Vanessa Jones, and contains information on nutrition and eye health, and most importantly, provides delicious recipes for every occasion.

Just one of the delicious recipes in the cook book, Individual English Spinach & Zucchini Frittatas, is not just a culinary delight, but also important for healthy eyes.


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