Adults are being reminded of the importance of undergoing regular eye tests ahead of AMD Awareness Week.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 50 in Ireland. Around 100,000 people are currently living with the condition here and some 7,000 are newly diagnosed every year.
AMD is a painless condition that affects a tiny part of the retina called the macula, which is located in the back of the eye. It affects central vision, making it blurry. Central vision is necessary for everyday activities such as reading, driving and watching television.
Other symptoms, such as dark spots, often go unrecognised in the early stages, which is why eye tests are so important.
AMD Awareness Week runs from September 7-15 and it is supported by the National Council for the Blind (NCBI), the Association of Optometrists Ireland, Fighting Blindness, the Irish College of Ophthalmologists and Healthy Ireland.
As part of the event, a new online AMD symptom checker has been launched, which may help people to identify the symptoms of the condition. It can be viewed here.
Meanwhile the theme of this year's annual event is ‘Sightsee with Me'. It aims to celebrate the nation's love of sightseeing and travelling, particularly across Ireland's stunning landscapes. It also aims to inform people about the symptoms of AMD and highlight the importance of maintaining good eye health in order to continue to enjoy sightseeing with loved ones.
A national tour of the ‘Sightsee with Me' pop-up bus stop will travel across Ireland during AMD Awareness Week, helping to inform those at risk of developing the condition, as well as their caregivers and the wider public.
The awareness week was launched by comedian, Deirdre O'Kane.
"Having recently turned 50, I'm more conscious than ever of taking care of my health, but I also know it's easy to ignore symptoms when we're busy and don't want to burden our families.
"This campaign is an important reminder to consider the lasting memories we create with loved ones through sightseeing, and to get our eyes tested regularly, allowing us to continue to enjoy these special moments. Conditions such as AMD should never be a reason to miss out on seeing the things you love with the ones you love," Ms Kane said.
Also speaking at the launch, consultant eye surgeon, Mr Mark Cahill, pointed out that symptoms of AMD can often go unrecognised, so it is essential that people educate themselves about the condition and have their eyes tested every two years.
"When AMD is diagnosed and treated early, it is a very manageable condition as effective treatments are now available.
"We know that many living with AMD depend on their caregivers heavily for support, so the symptom checker is a very welcome addition in not only educating those at risk of developing AMD, but those who may be able to identify signs and symptoms in a loved one also," he commented.
He added that there are many ways people can improve the health of their eyes, by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This should include increasing your intake of leafy greens in your daily diet, exercising regularly and not smoking.
"If you notice any change in your sight or if there is a history of AMD in your family, it is important to get your eyes tested regularly," Mr Cahill added.
For more information on AMD, click here.
*Pictured at the launch of the 12th annual AMD Awareness Week is comedian, Deirdre O'Kane.