Eye Health

16 September 2010

World Retina Week

20 September 2010 signifies the start of World Retina Week and this year Retina South Africa is urging people to save their sight and get their eyes tested.


20 September 2010 signifies the start of World Retina Week and this year Retina South Africa is urging people to save their sight and get their eyes tested. According to the World Health Organisation, Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the third largest cause of vision loss worldwide and the single largest cause of vision loss in the industrialised world.

Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (wet AMD) is an advanced form of AMD which results in a quick loss of vision. Wet AMD is not as common as dry AMD, but results in quicker and more substantial vision loss.

An early symptom of wet AMD is the distortion of lines and shapes, making regular lines appear wavy or everyday objects such as door frames appear crooked. A blind spot or dark area also usually forms resulting in loss of one’s central vision; limiting sight to the periphery.

Wet AMD is a degenerative eye disease. If left untreated, eyesight will worsen or be lost permanently. The disease is debilitating, leaving those who suffer from it helpless and dependent on family members or caregivers for even basic assistance. Imagine not being able to see your grandchild when holding them, and being forced to only view the world from your periphery.

Unfortunately many who have vision loss are not aware of the treatments that may be available to assist their condition, and remain in the dark about their condition.

As AMD and wet AMD, if not treated, are debilitating, patients with these conditions require constant assistance. To assist as a caregiver, there are a number of ways to ensure that an area such as the kitchen, is equipped for low vision living. There is also important information that you can share with a low vision patient to make their lifestyle more comfortable.

Low-vision living for your kitchen

Whether you're making a snack for yourself or preparing a feast for friends and family, these tips can help you create a more low-vision–friendly kitchen:

  • Create a System: Make sure all of your utensils, spices, and ingredients have their own place in the kitchen. Then make it a habit to put things away as soon as you are finished using them so they are easily found the next time. (You may need to ask family members to adopt your “system” so they don't put things back in the wrong place!)
  • Keep Cabinets Fully Closed or Fully Open: You can also try using contrasting tape (try white or black tape depending on the color of your cabinets) on the insides or backs of cabinet doors to make it easier to tell if one is open. Or install contrasting cabinet knobs or handles.
  • Perfect the Art of Touch: Tactile markings can help you tell the difference between similar types of containers. For example, wrap a rubber band around the juice container to tell it apart from the milk.
  • Sniff First, Sprinkle Second: There's nothing like mistaking pepper for cinnamon—so follow your nose when you're not sure!
  • Adopt the Art of Contrast: Use a cutting board that contrasts in color with the items you're slicing and dicing. Try to get a white cutting board and a black cutting board for your kitchen. So when you're cutting up meat, use the white cutting board. Need to cut an onion? Use the black one. Also, use oven mitts, dishtowels, and utensils that contrast with your countertops to make them easier to find.
  • Measure Up: It can be tough to see the lines for each measure on a standard measuring cup. So try using divided measuring cups instead. They are generally easier to use. Even better: they are available in different colors, so you can adopt the color-contrast techniques described above.

Only one registered treatment for wet AMD exists  at the moment, which not only stops the development of wet AMD but can also reverse its progression.

So make an appointment to visit your nearest optometrist for a free vision screening this World Retina Week, and be in control of your life and your sight.

Retina South Africa is the patient support and advocacy group for patients affected by all forms of retinal degenerative conditions such as Juvenile and Age Related Macular Degeneration,  Retinitis Pigmentosa and Usher Syndrome. For free information, counseling and support contact them on 0860 595 959 or visit their website www.retinasa.org.za(Retina South Africa/ September 2010)


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg and is currently practising at Tygerberg Academic Hospital in Cape Town. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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