Australians believe that blindness and severe vision loss would limit their ability to work and leave them socially isolated, according to new research released by the Macular Degeneration (MD) Foundation.
It is alarming to see that 60 per cent of people believe they would be unable to work if affected by severe vision loss or blindness and that 68 per cent said they would feel isolated and more than half would require support from a health or welfare agency.
What alarms me is that even though more than 50 per cent of people believe that they would feel lonely, isolated or depressed, only about 20 per cent had their vision checked.
The research further shows that 67 per cent of people rate the health of their macula as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ which is inconsistent with patient attendance to optometrists or ophthalmologists.
Only an optometrist or ophthalmologist can determine the health of your macula, which means we still have some way to go in educating people.
People over the age of 50 or with a family history of MD should have their macula examined regularly. They should also be aware of the symptoms of MD so they can seek early treatment if there is a problem.
There are some simple steps that can help reduce the risk of MD. Don’t smoke, keep a healthy lifestyle, eat a well balanced diet including fish and dark green leafy vegetables; ensuring your intake of lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3s is sufficient. Also, in consultation with your doctor consider taking a zinc and antioxidant supplement and provide adequate protection to your eyes from sunlight.
Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in Australia. The macula is the central part of the retina, which is the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The retina processes all visual images and is responsible for the ability to drive, see colours clearly, read and recognise faces. Macular Degeneration causes progressive macula damage resulting in central vision loss. The need for increased illumination, sensitivity to glare, decreased night vision and poor colour sensitivity can indicate that there is something wrong. The major risk factors for Macula Degeneration are age, smoking and a family history of the disease.
Vision One Eyecare and the Macular Degeneration Foundation recommends all Australians over the age of 40 seek an eye examination every two years.