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Have your eyes tested - it could save your sight!

When was the last time you had your eyes checked? If you have to think hard about when your last eye appointment was, chances are that it’s been too long.

This week is Macular Degeneration Awareness Week and it’s a timely reminder to organise a simple eye check – it could go a long way to helping preserve your sight!

Here are eight questions and answers about how protecting your macula (the tiny area in your eyes) could protect your vision.

1. What is Macular Degeneration (MD)?

MD is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in people over 40 in Australia[i]. A group of degenerative diseases, MD causes progressive, painless loss of central vision. Although there is no cure for MD, a number of treatments can slow its progression. The earlier MD is detected, the better the outcome as far as your vision is concerned.

Elderly Couple

2. So what exactly is the macula?

The macula is the central light sensitive tissues of the retina. Located at the back of the eye, it contains the highest density of light detecting cells and the area is responsible for central vision (rather than peripheral vision).

3. What does it do?

The macula processes vision in the centre of your eyes enabling you to recognise people, see colours and allows you to carry out the kind of fine image sight you need to carry out processes like driving.

4. Who’s affected by MD?

About one million Australians are affected by MD[ii], that’s around one in seven Aussies over age 50[iii]. Macular Disease Foundation Australia Chief Executive, Julie Heraghty, says that regular testing is vital stressing that without appropriate prevention and treatment, the number of people affected will rise to 1.7 million by 2030 as our population gets older[iv]. Surprisingly, although 85 per cent of Australians over 50 know that macular degeneration affects the eyes, one in four hadn’t had their eyes/macula checked within the last two years, reports Ms Heraghty.

5. Should I see my optometrist?

All Australians over 50 should see their optometrist for a full eye check as should people who smoke and those with a family history of the disease. Your optometrist will complete a thorough eye check and may advise more frequent visits.

6. What are the symptoms?

You can’t easily self-diagnose eye problems related to early MD. But, it’s extra important to see your optometrist if you have any of these four Ds:

  • Difficulty reading or with other activities that require fine vision
  • Distortion – where straight lines look wavy or bent
  • Distinguishing faces is becoming a problem
  • Dark patches or empty spaces appear in the centre of your vision.

7. What about lifestyle habits?

Smokers are particularly susceptible to MD. That’s because chemicals in tobacco affect the metabolism of the retina triggering faster or premature ageing of the eye. If you smoke, you risk gradually losing your central vision, which could eventually lead to blindness. Your GP can provide you with effective techniques to quit smoking.

Breaking Cigarette

8. What about diet?

As well as regular eye checks, a healthy diet and lifestyle can help to reduce the chance of developing MD

Go green

Most days, try to eat some form of leafy greens – such as spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and Chinese greens. They contain two key eye-protecting antioxidants called lutein (loo-teen) and zeaxanthin (zee-a-zan-thin), which are concentrated in your macula. Go for around a cup of leafy veggies daily. Try stir-frying with a little extra virgin olive oil to help your body to absorb these nutrients more effectively.

Nibble nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds contain vitamin E and zinc, key antioxidant protectors of your eyes. Go for a mixed handful of almonds, Brazil nuts and pumpkin seeds. Flax and chia seeds are good options as they contain omega-3 fats, which lubricate cells and decrease inflammation.

Make fish your dish

Around twice a week, try to opt for fish. Oily fish like salmon, fresh tuna and sardines contain essential omega-3 fats. They’re called essential as your body can’t make them for itself and you have to get them from your diet.

Fresh fruits and veggies

The bright colours of fruit signify that they are loaded with antioxidant pigments as well as vitamin C, both of which help to protect all your body cells from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can lead to long-term problems like inflammation, which in turn damages body cells.

Fresh fruits and veggies

Go low GI

Processed white foods like white bread, pasta, flour and rice can raise your blood glucose before causing it to dip. Eating too many white carbohydrate foods is associated with an increased risk of macular degeneration. So go wholegrain when you can.

On top of all these, protect your eyes from the sun’s rays, come in and get your eyes tested regularly and help protect your vision.

For more information about macular degeneration call the Macular Disease Foundation Australia on 1800 111 709 or visit

Due for a check-up? Book an eye test with our qualified optometrists at rt healthy eyes today. We’re open to – and we welcome – everyone!

Call rt healthy eyes Surry Hills: 1300 991 044

Call rt healthy eyes Charlestown: 1300 782 571

Ravinder Lily
Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund


[i] Age Related Mascular Degeneration

[ii] Macular Degeneration

[iii] MDFA Annual Report

[iv] Macular Degeneration Awareness Week 2014

This blog was posted in eye health, macular degeneration, macular degeneration week and tagged in rt health fund, rt healthy eyes