A recent study by the Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) has shown more needs to be done to educate Australians on macular disease, the country’s leading cause of blindness.
Macular disease is a term used to describe several diseases that affect the macula (located at the centre of the retina, at the back of the eye).
The macula is responsible for our detailed central vision – what we see straight in front of us; two of the most common diseases affecting the macula include diabetic eye disease (such as diabetic retinopathy) and age-related macular degeneration.
Despite being the leading cause of blindness in Australia, a YouGov Galaxy study, commissioned by MDFA, indicates 91 per cent of Australians are unsure or unaware of the function of the macula.
One of the most common diseases affecting the macula, diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of preventable
blindness in working-aged Australians.
Yet, the study shows that 60 per cent of people diagnosed with diabetes do not know what the macula’s function is; alarmingly, 64 per cent of those diagnosed with diabetes are unaware that the eyes an be affected by diabetes.
When it comes to reducing the risk of macular disease, the study showed that almost a quarter (23 per cent) of Australians aged 50 and over don’t know what to do to reduce the risk of macular disease.
According to MDFA, there are three steps that can reduce the risk of macular disease; these include having a regular comprehensive eye test (including a macula check), don’t smoke and maintain an eye-healthy lifestyle and diet.
A well-balanced diet high in antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients can help keep our eyes healthy – eat fish two to three times a week, dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily, and a handful of nuts per week.
Whenever possible, choose low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates instead of high GI.
Ita Buttrose, patron of MDFA said with May being Macular awareness month it was a perfect time to make an appointment for a comprehensive eye test.
“Whether you are diabetic, aged over 50 or, like me, are at higher risk of macular disease because of family history, I encourage everyone to take steps now to reduce their risk of macular disease,” Ms Buttrose said.
Ms Dee Hopkins, CEO of MDFA said nutrition plays an important role in optimising macular health and reducing the risk of macular disease.
“Many people in our community are at risk of developing macular disease but just don’t know it. Those over 50 are at higher risk of age-related macular degeneration, and everyone with diabetes is at risk of developing vision loss from diabetic eye disease,” she said.
“No matter what your age, if you have sudden changes in your vision you need to have your eyes tested immediately.
“During Macula Month, we hope that people think about their macula health, learn the risk factors associated with macular disease and have a regular, comprehensive eye examination, including having their macula checked.”
For information about macular disease, or to talk about what to do if you or a loved one has been diagnosed, contact Macular Disease Foundation Australia on 1800 111 709 or visit mdfoundation.com.au.