Over 7,000 people are newly diagnosed with the eye condition, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), every year in Ireland, and it remains the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50 here, a leading charity has warned.
AMD is a painless condition that affects a tiny part of the retina called the macula, which is located in the back of the eye. It affects central vision, making it blurry. Central vision is necessary for everyday activities such as reading, driving and watching television.
Fighting Blindness has just launched a new guide aimed at people affected by the condition. An estimated 7% of people over the age of 50 in Ireland are currently affected and globally, the number of those affected is expected to hit 288 million by 2040.
However, if AMD is diagnosed and treated early, it is very manageable as effective treatments are available.
Speaking at the launch of the new guide, Fighting Blindness board member, Prof David Keegan, emphasised that while a diagnosis can be scary, ‘it is important to stay positive and be aware that most people with AMD maintain reasonable vision'.
"This guide provides a very useful explanation to those who have been newly-diagnosed with AMD, or who have family members with the condition. Even in advanced cases, patients retain peripheral vision and are still able to continue most of their day-to-day activities," he explained.
He pointed out that certain types of AMD can be treated with intra-ocular injections, which are very successful if given on time. There are also many supports available to optimise visual function, from magnifiers to reading devices and phone apps.
"People can also be hopeful that there are new treatments being developed all the time that we anticipate will have a very positive impact in delaying the onset of sight loss and in reducing its severity," Prof Keegan said.
The CEO of Fighting Blindness, Kevin Whelan, urged all people over the age of 50 to have an eye examination every two years, even if there is no family history of AMD.
"While this guide is a very welcome resource for people with AMD, it is important to remember that there are steps that we can all take to reduce our risk of developing it or to secure an early diagnosis so that remedial steps can be taken.
"It is important that we reduce our risk and also catch it early so that we can stave off its worst effects and indeed stabilise or improve vision. That is why we encourage everyone over 50, and not only those with a family history of AMD, to have an eye examination every two years," he commented.
The Guide to AMD was developed with the support of Bayer and to obtain a copy, call Fighting Blindness on (01) 678 9004 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime, Fighting Blindness offers the following five tips to help protect against AMD:
-Symptoms - look out for straight lines appearing distorted or wavy, such as a door or picture frame. Watch out for smudges, gaps or dark spots appearing in your field of vision. If you have difficulties reading small print, even with glasses, or difficulty recognising faces, make an appointment for an eye check-up
-Risk groups - everyone over the age of 50 should have eye checks every two years. If you have fair skin, light eyes, high blood pressure, or have been exposed to prolonged periods of sunlight, then you should also have regular check-ups
-Healthy diet - eat a diet low in saturated fats and high in omega 3 fatty acids, which are found in oily fish. You should also eat plenty of green, leafy vegetables, yellow/orange coloured fruit and eggs, which all help to protect the macula
-Vitamin supplements - certain nutritional supplements containing vitamins C and E, zinc, copper, lutein and zeaxanthin, can slow down the progression of AMD in people already showing signs of the condition
-Get moving - everyone should undertake at least 150 minutes of medium-level activity, such as brisk walking or light jogging, every week.
For more information on Fighting Blindness, click here
*Pictured at the launch of the new guide were Pat O'Donoghue and John Leonard, who both have AMD, and former Ireland footballer, Ronnie Whelan
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