Macular degeneration on the rise

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MACULAR degeneration is the leading cause of blindness among the elderly, with one in seven New Zealanders over the age of 50 affected by the disease.

Sometimes its onset is rapid, and in other cases it is a slow progression, but the impact is debilitating with people losing the ability to drive, read and do day-to-day tasks.

According to Macular Degeneration New Zealand (MDNZ), which aims to highlight the age-related condition, Southland is likely to be more affected than other regions, by virtue of the region’s ageing population.

MDNZ has identified Invercargill and Southland as a key focus area because Southland has a significantly larger older population compared to other regions around New Zealand.

The challenge was to make people aware of the condition with MDNZ reporting about 41% of the region’s population were not aware of the condition.

There have been 5102 people diagnosed with macular degeneration and of those 1052 have suffered vision loss.

One of those who faced losing their sight was 84-year-old Eunice Andrew, of Riverton, who was diagnosed with the condition when she was in the United States of America in 2009 during a visit to her daughter.

She was diagnosed with wet age-related macular degeneration, and was told if she had not sought treatment, she would have been blind within a year. Now she can read a newspaper without glasses.

She urged people to get their eyes tested. “You don’t realise how important they are until you nearly lose them.”

While wet age-related macular degeneration only accounted for 10%–15% of all macular degeneration cases, this form was responsible for up to 90% of all cases which resulted in severe vision loss and legal blindness.

  • MDNZ is holding a free seminar at the Kelvin Hotel, Invercargill, on Saturday at 1.30pm where opthalmologist Dr Dianne Sharp will speak. To register or for more information, phone 800 622 852 or email info@mdnz.or.nz
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