Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012
Research released for Macular Degeneration Awareness Week, 27 May – 2 June 2012, has revealed that Australians significantly underestimate the role of family history in developing Macular Degeneration, the leading cause of blindness and vision loss in Australia.

Eyecare Plus / Insight Optometrists’ Dr Jan Coetzee says: “All those at risk, those over 50 or with a family history of Macular Degeneration, should have their eyes tested and macula checked. Family history is a risk factor, just as it is with other conditions such as heart disease and breast cancer. This is why it is critical for family members to also have their eyes tested and macula checked.”

“We also want Australians to know Macular Degeneration is not a normal part of ageing. Never ignore any changes in vision and always seek help immediately as early detection is critical to saving sight,” says Dr Coetzee.

The national survey commissioned by the Macular Degeneration Foundation (MDF) found nearly three in four Australians (71%) did not correctly identify the role that family history plays in developing the disease. This is despite research showing there is a 50% chance of developing macular degeneration when a family history of the disease is present. *

The research also found an estimated 2.1 million Australians over the age of 50 years, those most at risk, are unaware that having a parent with Macular Degeneration increases their chances of developing the disease. Alarmingly, one in three Australians also believe that vision loss caused by Macular Degeneration is just a normal part of ageing.

CEO of the Macular Degeneration Foundation, Julie Heraghty, said, “The results of the research are of great concern as about one in seven Australians over the age of 50 (one million people) have some evidence of Macular Degeneration, a chronic disease with a prevalence four times that of Dementia and more than half that of Diabetes.

“We want all Australians and their families to see a future and not have precious memories robbed by this disease.

“There are simple steps everyone can take to reduce their risk of developing Macular Degeneration and we want people to start by talking to their family about risk reduction measures. This includes having an eye test, adopting a healthy lifestyle and eating foods that are good for eye health including fish, foods with low GI and dark green leafy vegetables,” said Heraghty.

“We are calling on all Australians to make their family’s macular health a priority by having their eyes tested and macula checked, especially those who are most at risk, that is, people over the age of 50 and those with a family history of the disease,” said Heraghty.

Research key findings:
• Only one in five Australians (16%) correctly identified the chance of developing Macular Degeneration as 50% if you have a direct family history.
• One in three Australians incorrectly believes that vision loss caused by Macular Degeneration is just a normal part of ageing.
• Generation X (aged 35-49) is more aware than their parents and children about the genetic risk of developing Macular Degeneration.
• More than half of the population incorrectly identified spending less time on the computer and resting your eyes as ways to reduce the risk of developing Macular Degeneration.
• Those aged 16-24 years were the most misinformed, with 81% incorrectly identifying that spending less time on the computer would reduce their risk and 77% saying resting their eyes would help.
• Most of those interviewed incorrectly identified iron (55%) and calcium (38%) as nutrients important for eye health, while it is lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc and omega-3s that are crucial for macular health.

About the survey
The Macular Degeneration Foundation commissioned Galaxy Research, a leader in Australian research, to conduct this survey in February 2012 including a sample size of 1,100 respondents aged 16 years and older.

About Macular Degeneration
Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of blindness and vision loss in Australia. All Australians over the age of 50 years should have an eye test and make sure their macula is checked. 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 damage to the macula, resulting in central vision loss.

About Macular Degeneration Awareness Week – 27 May to 2 June 2012:

The theme for Macular Degeneration Awareness Week 2012 is ‘Keep your family in the picture.’ During May the MD Foundation is encouraging families to speak with their loved ones about ways to reduce their risk of developing Macular Degeneration. This annual event aims to raise awareness of Macular Degeneration and to encourage those most at risk, people over 50, to have their eyes tested and macula checked. The importance of nutrition and lifestyle to prevention and disease progression is also a key focus of the week.


* Klaver CC et al, Arch Ophthalmol 1998, 116: 1646-1651

File Library

Contact Profile

Keywords

macular degeneration, AMD, vision loss, blindness, hereditary eye disease, genetic eye disease

Categories

Sharing

More Formats