4 facts you need to know about your eyes as you age.

For many of us, our eyesight is something we take for granted – until we start getting older.

And then, suddenly we think, “Oh, I might need glasses to read”, and we accept that’s part of the process. But there’s more to it.

Eye health is something you can actually help control as you get older, especially to reduce your risk of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) – which can lead to low vision and blindness.

Anyone who’s caring for a parent or grandparent would want the best for their eyesight too. So, we all need to know what we can do – and there are preventative measures that go beyond just wearing sunglasses to block UV rays.

Here are four facts about your eyes that can help protect your vision, and the vision of those you care for, for years to come.

1. Eye health is not just about your eyes.

You may already know that smoking can increase your risk of developing an eye condition. But did you know that high cholesterol and high blood pressure can too?

High cholesterol and high blood pressure can damage the blood vessel walls, increasing the likelihood of things like blood clots.

Take note also if you have an older person in your life who may need help getting on top of these things.

2. Diet is a key factor in helping to look after your eyes.

No, we don’t mean just eating lots of carrots!

To help reduce the risk of developing an eye condition, Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) recommends that we adopt the following simple practices as a normal part of our diets:

  • Limit the intake of fats and oils
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet 
  • Eat dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily 
  • Eat fish two to three times a week 
  • Choose low glycemic index (low GI) carbohydrates instead of high GI  
  • Eat a handful of nuts a week.

Now, what about carrots? It turns out they’re not the number one food for eye health, despite what we’re told as kids.

MDFA notes that while carrots are a good source of vitamin A, which is important for general health, you should choose dark leafy greens as your main eye health vegetable.

For recipes that are tailored to improving your eye health, check out their free Eat For Your Eyes electronic cookbook on their website.

3. One in seven Aussies over 50 is affected by Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

AMD is a chronic eye disease, which if left unchecked, may cause blindness. It’s also the leading cause of blindness in Australia.

The macula is the part of your eye used for sharp, central vision. AMD causes the macula to deteriorate, and over time leads to blurred sight, and even black spots in your central vision.

This makes it hard to drive, read and recognise people’s faces. It’s a scary thought for a lot of us, isn’t it? And it’s particularly hard to watch a loved one going through it.

macular degeneration
This is what AMD or age-related macular degeneration might look like for some people. Image:

As a quick explainer, the stages of AMD are:

Early and intermediate AMD: caused by the continual build-up of waste product (called ‘drusen’) underneath the macula.

Late AMD: may be atrophic (dry), or neovascular (wet).

  • Dry AMD is caused by the gradual loss of cells in your macula, leading to a gradual loss of central vision.
  • Wet AMD is caused by new, abnormal blood vessels growing under the macula, which can leak blood and fluid.

But please don’t panic - now you know what it is, you may want to share the following advice with anyone you know who's over the age of 50.

4. Getting an eye exam can save your eyesight.

Good news – early detection can help save sight.

You might think that’s common sense, but a recent survey found that although AMD awareness is high in Australians over 50, one in three haven’t had their macula checked in the previous two years.

Moreover, of the 133,000 Australians estimated to have wet AMD, more than 60 per cent are going without treatment, putting them at serious risk of losing their vision.

This is why Novartis has launched the See What’s Next Campaign, raising awareness of AMD, and encouraging people to get an eye check at their optometrist or talk to their GP.

The campaign’s website can help you quickly and easily find a local optometrist for a check-up for you, your parent, grandparent, uncle or aunt.

Even if you’re not near the age of when AMD becomes a greater risk, you may know someone who is. It's important to know that talking to your loved ones about eye health, and ensuring they get the professional attention they need, can make all the difference to someone’s sight.

Here’s to a healthier life with healthier vision for all of us.

Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd are working together on the common goal to raise awareness of age-related macular degeneration in the community. See What’s Next is an awareness campaign developed by Novartis. By supporting this campaign MDFA is not endorsing any specific treatment or therapy.

Novartis and Macular Disease Foundation Australia

The See What’s Next campaign encourages Aussies to put an eye examination on their health checklist, and specifically ask to have their macula checked for macular degeneration to reduce their risk of losing sight of what’s important.