When 87-year-old Rita Walton’s elderly mother lost her sight, it was “just one of those things… we didn’t know about age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in those days”.
“Things started to fade, particularly when I was driving. Things in the shade or dark – black cars – just seemed to disappear. I handed in my licence when I was 79-years-old.
“Now I’m technically blind. I have good peripheral vision, but my central vision is just not there. Reading is out. I can’t watch TV.”
Rita’s family is a classic example of the hereditary nature of AMD. From a family of eight, six siblings lived past middle age. Three of the six were diagnosed with AMD.
If you have a sibling or parent with AMD, you have a 50 per cent risk of getting the disease too.
AMD is the most common macular disease, accounting for 50 per cent of blindness in Australia. There is no cure, but early action can save sight.
While it is too late for her own vision, Rita is pinning her hopes on research to ensure macular disease ends with her generation and does not rob the sight of her seven children.
“We’re so much better informed now than in my mother’s day. We just thought it was one of those things (when she went blind). By the time my sister, Betty, who had wet macular degeneration, started losing her sight it was too late for injections. Then I was told about my dry macular degeneration. My elder brother lost his sight to macular degeneration in the last 18 months of his life.
“I’m aware of it now but I had no idea there was a hereditary link.”
If you or one of your direct family members has AMD, Macular Disease Foundation Australia is urging you to start a conversation about family eye health and follow this eye health checklist:
- Have a regular comprehensive eye examination, including a check of the macula.
- Use an Amsler grid weekly (daily if you already have macular disease) to check for symptoms and assist in monitoring your vision at home, between visits to your eye health professional.
- If you smoke, quit!
- Maintain an eye healthy diet and lifestyle.
Contact MDFA on 1800 111 709 for information about macular disease, or to talk about what you do if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a macular disease.