Imagine a world without vision. Now, imagine how you would feel knowing your (or your loved one’s) sight could have been saved for a day, a month, a few years longer – just by awareness of New Zealand’s leading cause of blindness – macular degeneration (MD) – and a simple test.
This Awareness Week, Macular Degeneration New Zealand (MDNZ) reveals new research showing only 67% of Kiwis over the age of 50 have heard of MD. At the same time, MDNZ is releasing a resource paper highlighting key evidence that shows treatment for Wet MD is changing people’s lives, prolonging their sight and improving quality of life.
In Australia, Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss, with more than 1.15 million Australians over the age of 50 having some evidence of the disease. Without appropriate prevention and treatment measures, this number is set to increase to 1.7 million by 2030, due to the rapidly ageing population.2 Risk factors for macular degeneration include being over the age of fifty, a direct family history, and smoking.
Macular Degeneration Week hopes to encourage all people over 50 to have regular eye checks and use the three-step approach to help early detection:
– Test the eyes and macula as early detection can help save sight
– Monitor for changes in vision – don’t dismiss these as a part of getting older
– Respond to changes to your vision with an urgent appointment with your eye care professional
A recent survey by the Macular Degeneration Foundation revealed that 75% of respondents were unaware certain nutrients could contribute to good eye health. Interestingly, only 4% knew that the antioxidant lutein was important for macula health3 which is found in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and silverbeet.
“Follow an eye health diet and lifestyle including fish 2-3 times a week, dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily, a handful of nuts a week, choose low GI foods and limit your intake of fats and oils. Exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking are also essential. Smoking increases your risk of developing the disease by 3 to 4 times and can lead to blindness, so quitting is critical,” said Macular Disease Foundation Australia CEO Julie HeraghtyMs Heraghty.
ACcording to Macular Degeneration New Zealand findings, New Zealenders are still behind Australians in awareness of the condition.
What is Macular Degeneration?
The macula is the central part of the retina, the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The retina processes all visual images. There are two types of macular degeneration, which can result in loss of central vision. The ‘Dry’ form results in a gradual loss of central vision and can’t be treated. The ‘Wet’ form is characterised by a sudden loss of vision and is caused by abnormal blood vessels growing into the retina. Immediate medical treatment is essential if symptoms occur.
Nutrition plays an important role in optimising macular health, and reducing the risk of macular degeneration. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet which includes eye health foods will be good for overall wellbeing as well as eye health. For some people an appropriate supplement may also be an important consideration.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important to eye health. All fish and shellfish contain omega- 3s but higher concentrations are found in oily varieties of fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, trout, herring and sardines (and tuna to a lesser degree). Eat fish or seafood 2-3 times per week either fresh, frozen or tinned.
Your diet should include a range of other nutrients that will help support good macular health. These nutrients include zinc (sources include oysters, seafood, nuts and legumes), vitamin E (sources include nuts and whole grains), vitamin C (sources include citrus fruit, berries and tomatoes), and selenium (sources include nuts, particularly Brazil nuts).