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Sight loss most common fear for the over-50s

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may not as well known as other eye diseases, but it is the most common cause of registered blindness in Ireland.

Image: robmcbell via Creative Commons

SIGHT LOSS IS the most commonly held fear in the over-50s age group in Ireland, according to new research.

Some 40 per cent of respondents taking part in a survey for this year’s AMD Awareness Week said they would miss their independence the most if they were affected by a visual impairment, followed by the ability to read (23 per cent) and to drive (16 per cent).

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is not as well known as other eye diseases such as cataracts or glaucoma, however it is the principal cause of sight loss in those over the age of 50 in the western world. It is also the most common cause of registered blindness in Ireland, with one in ten people over the age of 50 being affected by AMD.

Dr Marie Hickey-Dwyer of the Irish College of Ophthalmologists explained, “AMD affects the macula, the central part of the retina at the back of the eye that is responsible for the ‘straight-ahead’ vision necessary for everyday activities such as reading, driving, telling the time or identifying faces”.

Despite the seriousness of the condition, just 34 per cent of respondents included in the ‘most at-risk age’ category said they had never even heard of AMD.

AMD Awareness Week aims to increase public knowledge of age-related macular degeneration and to highlight the importance of an early diagnosis.

Lynda McGivney-Nolan, Optometric Advisor with the Association of Optometrists Ireland, said: “We recommend that people in the over 50 age bracket have an eye examination at least every two years to have their vision tested and to get the back of their eyes checked”.

“The most obvious symptoms of AMD are sudden onset of distortion and blurring in the centre of a person’s vision and early detection of these symptoms ensures that the condition can be treated effectively,” she added.

More happily, the survey showed that those in the over 50 age group were generally diligent about having their eyes tested, with 60 per cent of respondents going for a check-up every two years.

Free testing for AMD is available at a range of locations across the country during ADM Awareness Week:

Tuesday 20 September
10-1pm Ballybane Library, Castlepark Road, Ballybane, Galway
2-6pm Galway Golf Club, Blackrock, Salthill, Galway
Wednesday 21 September
10-1pm Limerick City Library, The Granary, Michael Street, Limerick
2-6pm Castletroy Golf Club, Golf Links Road, Castletroy, Co. Limerick
Thursday 22 September
10-1pm Waterford City Library, Lady’s Lane, Waterford
2-6pm Waterford Golf Club, Newrath, Waterford
Friday, 23 September
10-1pm County Library Tallaght, Library Square, Tallaght, Dublin 24
Saturday, 24 September
2-5pm Cork City Library, 57-61 Grand Parade, Cork

See www.amd.ie for more details.

The research was carried out ahead of AMD Awareness Week 2011 and was supported by National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI), Fighting Blindness, the Irish College of Ophthalmologists (ICO) and the Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI), in association with Novartis.

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