Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the number one cause of sight loss among people over the age of 50 in Ireland, however symptoms of the condition often go unrecognised, experts have warned.
AMD affects central vision, making it blurry. Central vision is necessary for everyday activities such as reading, driving and watching television. Over 100,000 Irish people are currently living with the condition and some 7,000 are newly diagnosed every year.
This week is AMD Awareness Week and the theme of this year's event is ‘Sightsee With Me'. It aims to highlight the importance of maintaining good eye health, so that people can continue to travel and sightsee with family and friends.
"Symptoms of AMD can often go unrecognised so it's vital that those aged over 50 get their eyes tested every two years. When AMD is diagnosed and treated early, it is a very manageable condition as effective treatments are now available.
"There are many ways people can improve their eye health, such as maintaining a healthy lifestyle, increasing intake of leafy greens into your daily diet, regular exercise and not smoking. If you notice any change in your sight or if there is a history of AMD in your family, it is important to get your eyes tested regularly," explained consultant eye surgeon and spokesperson for the Irish College of Ophthalmologists, Mr Mark Cahill.
According to Chris White, CEO of the National Council for the Blind (NCBI), while everyone can expect to experience some changes in sight as part of the ageing process, recognising the signs of AMD as early as possible ‘is key to ensuring that you have the best vision possible as you grow older'.
Symptoms include vision distortion and blurring, however the most effective way to detect AMD is by having regular eye examinations.
"AMD testing is routinely carried out by all optometrists during the eye examination. Optometrists are trained to identify the early changes at the macula, which can appear before your eye sight is affected.
"Optometrists are also trained to give you the best advice on how to reduce and manage your risk of developing AMD. If you have any concerns about your vision, you should always talk to your optometrist," noted Lynda McGivney-Nolan, optometic advisor to the Association of Optometrists.
A number of events are taking place this week as part of AMD Awareness Week, including an AMD bus that is travelling nationwide carrying out AMD testing.
AMD Awareness Week is run by Novartis and is supported by the Association of Optometrists Ireland, Fighting Blindness, the Irish College of Ophthalmologists, and the NCBI. For more information on AMD and events taking place nationwide this week, click here
*Pictured is AMD Awareness Week ambassador, Deirdre O'Kane, and Loretto Callaghan, managing director of Novartis Ireland
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