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Active Retirees : Active Retirees April-May 2012
36 | www.probussouthpacific.org HEALTH 1 Have a check-up with your optometrist every two years, or annually if you have diabetes. 2 Wear sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats when outdoors. UV exposure can contribute to the development of eye disease. 3 For every hour spent on the computer, have a five-minute break to rest your eyes, as time spent in front of a computer decreases our blink rate leading to dry eye and fatigue. 4 Do regular self tests with an Amsler Grid. It can help detect macular degeneration and is available from the Macular Degeneration Foundation. If you notice any changes in your eyesight, see your optometrist immediately. 5 Don’t smoke! Smoking dramatically increases your chances of macular degeneration and other eye conditions. Courtesy of Jared Slater, Optometrists Association Australia (1, 2 and 3) and Rob Cummins, Macular Degeneration Foundation (4 and 5). 5 WAYS TO FOCUS ON EYE HEALTH Find out more For more information about eye health, contact the Optometrists Association Australia or the Macular Degeneration Foundation. W: www.optometrists.asn.au W: www.mdfoundation.com.au Macular Degeneration Awareness Week: 27May–2June. your 40s and 50s when you have trouble focusing on close objects. “People will hold things further away to see them clearly,” he says. “It is almost universal in people over 55.” It can’t be prevented, but seeing your optometrist for a pair of individually prescribed reading glasses will correct that problem. I spy ... disease Four major eye diseases affect over -55s: glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration. Glaucoma is damage to the optic nerve cells. “This is often caused by high pressure inside the eye, which can damage the retina resulting in the loss of peripheral (outer edges of sight) vision,” says Slater. Often you can’t tell you have it until your vision is affected and while it can’t be prevented, it is treatable. Eye drops are used initially, and surgery may be needed in some cases. “Cataracts are clouding of the eye’s lens and tend to be the result of long-term UV exposure and ageing. Cataracts can gradually cause vision loss,” says Slater. These days, cataracts can be removed with minor surgery and patients may not even need glasses anymore after the surgery. Diabetic retinopathy can occur in people with diabetes and can cause serious vision loss if left untreated, warns Slater. The risk of diabetic retinopathy is greater the longer you’ve had diabetes, and if you don’t control your blood glucose levels. “Macular degeneration (MD) is when the central retina deteriorates, distorting central vision,” says Slater. Although MD is the main cause of legal blindness in Australians over the age of 50, according to the Macular Degeneration Foundation’s (MDF) Rob Cummins, it doesn’t cause total blindness. “It robs you of your fine, detailed central vision necessary for reading, driving and seeing faces clearly,” Cummins explains. The first signs of MD can occur from age 50, but you can’t actually see them yourself. An optometrist would be the one to spot the changes in your retina and can monitor them. “One in seven people over 50 have evidence of MD,” Cummins says. “It’s when you hit your 60s or 70s that you may notice the symptoms.” They include difficulty reading, distortion especially where straight lines look wavy, trouble distinguishing faces and dark patches popping up in the centre of your vision. Some forms of MD can be treated with injections. “The injections are phenomenally good,” says Cummins. “They are up to 95 per cent effective if started early for people with ‘wet’ MD.” But, of course, prevention is always better than any cure. MD can be slowed with a healthy diet rich in oily fish such as salmon, with plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, plus a handful of nuts a week and, for those with problems regulating glucose levels naturally, low-GI foods. Looking after your eyes can be a lot of work – a healthy diet, controlled blood sugar levels, regular check-ups and self- monitoring – so is it all worth the effort? “Good vision is essential,” says Slater, “Most of the information required for everyday living is obtained through our eyes. The earlier we start looking after the health of our eyes, the better our chance of maintaining good vision for life.” •• Feed your eye health with our recipes on page 38 » The first signs of macular degeneration can occur from age 50, but you can’t see them yourself.
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