The Process of Diagnosing Dry Eye Disease

With no single treatment regime, dry eye disease, is difficult to treat creating frustration for both optometrists and patients.

Early recognition of the symptoms of dry eye disease are important so do not let the discomforting symptoms continue until they become painful and debilitating.

 We speak with two Eyecare Plus optometrists, Glenn Vessey and Denise Lee, who discuss the treatment process of dry eye disease.

Often underdiagnosed, dry eye is quite a common eye condition. Many people who have the dry eye symptoms are often not aware that they have them. Studies show that the prevalence of dry eye increases with age, occurring in up to 30% of elderly people.

The Treatment Processes

Glen Vessey, an optometrist for more than 30 years, has been particularly focussed on the treatment of dry eye disease since 2013.

“The equipment and technology we have to diagnose and treat dry eye disease has improved markedly over the last five to10 years… and we are steadily finding new ways to improve its diagnosis and management.

“It is essential to accurately diagnose the condition. Correct classification of the type of dry eye is equally important,” says Glenn.

During the eye examination, your optometrist will look for signs of the disease and ask you questions about their symptoms, including grading their symptoms.

“Once the optometrist accurately diagnoses and classifies the condition, the next step is to determine the most suitable treatment regimen for each patient,” says Glenn.

This leads to a more detailed discussion about dry eye disease and prescribed management.

Optometrist Denise Lee says that “mild cases of dry eye disease are prescribed lubricating eyedrops, whereas moderate to severe cases are invited to return for further testing to ascertain what other management and treatment options should be done.”

Treatment options include “a variety of medications (both prescribed and over the counter), Intense Regulated Pulse Light (IRPL), Blephasteam, heat compresses on the eyes, expression of the meibomian glands and natural oral supplements to improve tear production,” says Glenn.

“As a chronic eye condition,” Denise points out that it is important for patients to be educated, specifically, about “how to slow down its progression”.

Dry eye disease can become “debilitating for some, and difficult to manage in the advanced stage,” she says.

Treatment Improvements

In the past, management for dry eye disease involved lubricating drops, gels, and ointments, as well as bandage contact lenses and punctal plugs. Glenn Vessey states that, “if we diagnosed someone with dry eye we simply treated the condition by giving the patient additional (artificial) tears, which only treated dry eye symptoms, not the cause of the dry eye (the tear glands not producing enough tears).”

Now there are many more treatment options for dry eye.

“Now we identify those patients who would benefit from unblocking, stimulating, and rejuvenating the tear glands; reversing the process by which the glands become blocked, stop producing tears, atrophy and eventually die off. This not only provides improvement in the dry eye symptoms but reverses the deterioration of the disease over time.”

Denise Lee says that, “modern day management encompasses a myriad of options depending on the type and severity of dry eye disease”.

Treatment options today include “meibomian gland expression, intense pulse light, scleral contact lenses, amniotic membranes and drops, blood serum drops, and new formula eyedrops that target inflammation, infection, and immune suppression.

As well as these, Denise Lee uses “LipiFlow and Rexon-Eye dry eye treatments”. LipiFlow is an automated thermal heating massaging system and Rexon-Eye is a non-invasive cellular regeneration treatment.

Individual Treatment Options

Dry eye is a multifactorial disease.

The treatment of each person with dry eye disease is unique to their own situation.

Glenn Vessey implores that, “accurate diagnosis of the type of dry eye is essential.” Once that is achieved the best possible treatment can be tailored to the individual patient’s condition using a combination of treatment options.

When seeing an optometrist, you need to ensure that “they are continually updating their knowledge and skills relating to diagnosis and treatment of dry eye disease,” says Denise.

Dry eye is one of the most underrated diseases.

Symptoms in severe cases can be debilitating and have a detrimental impact on a patient’s lifestyle. Like many diseases, prevention is the best form of treatment.

If you want to find out more about dry eye disease book an appointment to see your local Eyecare Plus optometrist.

The Benefits of Wearing Contact Lenses

Contact lenses are a great alternative to spectacles, and for many people, they are the preferred vision option.

As a result of improvements in technology almost any vision problem can be corrected with contact lenses.

There have been enormous advances made in contact lens material and design, including the use of improved silicone hydrogel lens materials, advances in daily disposables for presbyopia and soft lenses that correct both astigmatism and presbyopia.

The latest contact lenses are comfortable and convenient to use. They are easy to adapt to, can correct most vision problems and are able to be worn from a young age. Many reasons why more than 680,000 Australians aged between 15 and 64 years wear contact lenses.

There are many other benefits to wearing contact lenses, including:

Full Range of Vision
Contact lenses provide you with a full range of vision, with no frames to obstruct your vision, particularly important when driving a car.

No Fog
Contact lenses, unlike spectacles, contact lenses do not fog up.

Wear Them Playing Sport
Contact lenses are perfect for sports and exercise.

More Natural Vision
Contact lenses move with your eye, which provides wearers with a more natural vision.

Daily to Extended Wear
Contact lenses can be worn daily or, in the case of extended wear every day, up to 30 days for some lenses.

Fashionable
Contact lenses are a good fashion choice. They will never clash with the clothing you wear, and many people feel that wearing contact lenses make them look better.

Surgery Alternative
Contact lenses offer a safe, effective, stable, and changeable alternative to refractive surgery.

During this time of COVID there has been some uncertainty based on confusion and misinformation as to whether it is still safe to wear contact lenses.

So, how can you be sure contact lenses are safe to wear?

The simple answer is to be vigilant about your hand hygiene.

We are all aware that practicing good hand hygiene helps protect us from the COVID-19.

This same hygiene practice should also be applied to the wearing of contact lenses.

Advice from Optometry Australia recommends to “always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after inserting and removing your contact lenses.”

As to some of the myths, a joint statement from contact lens experts puts paid to these:

Contact Lens Wear is Safe
Despite myths and misinformation contact lens wear remains a safe and highly effective form of vision correction for millions of people worldwide.

Proper Hand Washing is Essential
When using contact lenses, careful and thorough hand washing with soap and water followed by hand drying with unused paper towels is paramount. This should occur before every insertion and removal of contact lenses.

Disinfect Contact Lenses
Contact lens wearers should either dispose of their daily disposable lenses each evening, or regularly disinfect their monthly and two-week lenses according to manufacturer and eye care professional instructions.

Discontinue Lens Wear Only if Sick
Ceasing contact lens wear when sick is advised. This advice is consistent with guidance for other types of illness.

 

If you have further questions about contact lenses, contact your local Eyecare Plus optometrist.

Dry Eyes in the Age of Covid

Dry eye disease can be extremely frustrating and upsetting for people who suffer from it.

It is a multifactorial condition which affects one in five adults, caused by a chronic lack of moisture to the surface of the eye.

Dry eye symptoms can range from a combination of a stinging or burning feeling, occasional blurred vision, redness, constant tiredness (like you always need to close your eyes) and/or the feeling that you have something like an eyelash in your eye.

Dry Eye Treatment

Treatment for mild dry eye disease can be in the form of artificial tears which lubricate the surface of the eyes.

If you are on the computer for long periods, take a break and look into the distance for 20 to 30 seconds to give your eyes a break. By focusing on a computer screen for long periods most people will blink less. As a result, our eyes become dry. Make a deliberate decision to take breaks from the screen and blink. Blinking renews the tear film which prevents dry spots on the eyes.

Drinking plenty of water, especially in hot weather, can help decrease dry eye symptoms, as will supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids.

For those with more severe dry eye symptoms, as part of an ongoing treatment plan, steroid eye drops are used short-term to treat the root cause of the inflammation.

Other treatments for long-term dry eye sufferers include a warm compress to the closed eyelid to soften and unclog the meibomian glands and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment which flashes filtered wavelengths of light that are absorbed by the dilated blood vessels to reduce inflammation.

Mask Associated Dry Eye (MADE)

A new source of dry eye problem has arisen during the Covid pandemic – mask associated dry eye (MADE).

That is, a rise in dry eye cases due to the wearing of a poorly fitted face mask.

Wearing a mask helps to reduce the spread of the virus but can, if worn incorrectly, exacerbate dry eye symptoms when a person breathes out, spreading air upward toward the eyes.

Many people wearing a face mask for a long period of time who are not wearing their mask correctly, firmly against their face, are experiencing dry eye symptoms.

This is problematic, particularly for people who have an existing dry eye problem.

When wearing your mask, it is important to wear it snug against your face to help stop the air that you exhale from escaping upwards and over the surface of your eyes. If you wear a loose mask your breath will not only disperse out the sides but also upwards and across the ocular surface which could aggravate dry eye symptoms.

The Centre for Ocular Research and Education (CORE) recommend some simple solutions that can help stop or reduce the severity of dry eye symptoms when wearing a mask.

Dry Eye Solution Tips

  1. Adjust your mask so that it fits firmly around your nose and under your eyes to stop your breath escaping upwards.
  2. Artificial tears will help to lubricate your dry eyes and maintain moisture on the outer surface of your eyes.
  3. Reduce the time you spend in air-conditioned environments
  4. Give your eyes regular breaks from digital devices.

Wearing a mask correctly has played a critical role in reducing transmission of the global virus pandemic.

If you have questions about dry eye symptoms make an appointment to see your local Eyecare Plus optometrist who can advise you on an appropriate treatment plan.

How to Stop your Spectacles Fogging Up

Wearing a mask is a way of life for many Australians but, for those who wear spectacles, a new problem has emerged out of Covid 19 – glasses fogging up.

When the New York Times asked readers for their questions about Covid 19, one of the most common was, “how do I solve the fogging problem”?

Fogging of the glasses has always been a problem for health care workers, one which now that it is in the public domain is causing many people a great deal of consternation.

The Fogging Problem

Fogging occurs when the warm air that we breathe out comes into contact with the cool surface of our spectacle lens and, as a result, forms condensation.

Whatever mask you wear, whether it is a cloth, homemade or a surgical mask, your glasses will more often than not, fog up. It is so annoying that many people give up wearing a mask altogether.

Some pundits suggest to just ‘breathe through your nose, not your mouth’. This will work for a short time but eventually your natural inclination is to go back to breathing through your mouth.

There are better ways to stop your glasses from fogging up.

Solving the Problem

If you do a Google search, you will find a plethora of articles and videos sharing tips and problem-solving hacks on how to demist your lenses. We tried many and came up with our own list of the most effective methods for keeping your glasses fog-free.

Mould the Wire

Press the wire at the top of the mask tight against the bridge of your nose and the top of your cheeks. You want to make sure that no warm air from your breath can escape. Then, place your glasses firmly over the top of your mask. The weight of your glasses against your mask will create a seal to stop the warm air from escaping.

Please note to always wash your hands with soap and water first before touching your mask.

Soap and Water

A time proven method used by surgeons who wear surgical masks all the time is to wash your glasses with soap and water gently and make sure not to leave any soap suds on your lens, shake off the excess water and let them air dry. The soap will then leave behind a thin film that acts as a fog barrier to prevent the lenses from misting up.

Folded Tissue

Fold a tissue horizontally a few times so that it is about one cm wide. Place it inside the top of your mask and against your nose bridge. This will help absorb the moisture from your breath and stop it from fogging your glasses. The tissue may shift, so if it does, staple it to the mask to keep it in place.

Surgical Tape

For those wearing a mask for long periods, place a strip of non-irritating white athletic or surgical tape across the top of the mask. The tape must be hypoallergenic and easy to remove. The tape will create a tight seal and also stops your mask from slipping down.

Band-Aid Solution

If there is no surgical tape on hand, try using a couple of band-aids instead. They will work nearly as well as surgical tape.

Tie Your Mask

To create a better seal, tighten your mask at the side by double looping the mask ties then hooking them over your ears. Your breath will then pass through the mask and not out the sides or the top.

Anti-fog Products

An anti-fog spray or wipes is an easy to use product made to disperse the fog droplets from your lenses. Spray on both sides of the lens after cleaning.

Take note that you may need to do this repeatedly as the fogging could return.

 Anti-fog Lenses

Lenses that are made with an anti-fog coating are designed primarily to provide anti-fog protection.

Contact Lenses

A complete solution to lenses fogging is to wear contact lenses. They avoid the issue of fogging all together. Wash your hands thoroughly before putting in your contact lenses.

It is a bit of trial and error. Try our tips and you will find a solution that works for you.

To find out more about anti-fog lenses and products or contact lenses contact your local Eyecare Plus Optometrists.

Why You Should Wear Sunglasses in Winter

It may seem counter intuitive to wear sunglasses in winter; however, health experts warn that wearing sunglasses during winter months is essential.

Sunglasses are not only an important fashion accessory; they provide eye protection from harmful UV rays which are there no matter the season and can be a lot worse in winter.

They also protect your eyes from wind and dust particles as well as glare, particularly when driving.

Winter Glare

Imagine driving home during winter without your sunglasses… very uncomfortable and somewhat dangerous trying to dodge the glare and intensity of the low winter sun!

If there are marks or dirt on your windscreen the glare becomes much worse as the light refracts off the surface which makes it harder to see.

The problem is that the majority of people still do not wear sunglasses in winter.

In fact, according to research conducted by Optometry Australia for the 2020 Vision Index, a staggering 76 per cent of Australians think wearing sunglasses in winter is unnecessary. Not only that but 10 percent do not know that you can buy sunglasses with UV protection.

In winter, the light that pours in through your windshield is a lot lower on the horizon than in summer. As a result of this angle the winter sun can cause intense glare when driving.

Damaging Ultraviolet (UV) Rays

Sophie Koh, Optometrist and Optometry Australia National Services Advisor, says that even on overcast and cold days that although we may not be able to see the sun “it’s there and so too are its damaging UV rays.”

“Just because the sun is behind the clouds, it doesn’t mean we should forget about protecting our eyes, especially when a staggering 90 per cent of the sun’s UV rays can filter through even the thickest cloud cover,” said Ms. Koh.

In winter UV levels are above three in many parts of Australia, which can place your eyes at risk of “short term or permanent damage – including cataracts, pterygium and photokeratitis,” says Ms Koh.

Winter Sun Eye Damage

Cataracts is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. It develops as we get older and is made worse by UV exposure. Wearing UV protected sunglasses during winter can substantially reduce the risk of cataracts.

Pterygium is a fleshy growth of tissue on the white of the eye that can extend over the cornea. It develops due to long term exposure to UV rays, wind, glare, and dust. It is also referred to as ‘Surfer’s Eye’ because surfers are in bright sunlight for long periods of the day and in the surf, which reflects UV rays. Pterygium is easily avoided by wearing UV sunglasses.

Photokeratitis, more commonly known as ‘Snow Blindness’, is an acute eye condition caused by overexposure to UV rays reflected off the snow and ice. Essentially, photokeratitis is the result of a sunburnt eye. It is a painful short term vision loss which rights itself in a day or two. Wearing UV sunglasses will protect you from this eye disease.

Stay sun smart in winter and always wear your sunglasses with UV protection when you are out and about.

If you have any questions about UV protection for the eyes, contact your local Eyecare Plus Optometrist.

Diabetes, Your Eyes, and Your Mental Health

Diabetes can affect the entire body, including your eyes.

It is a serious complex condition which requires daily self-care and, if complications develop, the condition can seriously impact the quality of a person’s life – even causing blindness.

Diabetes is debilitating. Not only can it lead to blindness, it can cause heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, limb amputation, depression, and anxiety.

Less visible are the mental health complications of diabetes which impacts almost half of all people living with the disease, with many regularly experiencing moderate to severe anxiety or stress.

To help improve a person’s mental health, Diabetes Australia has launched a new campaign called Heads Up on Diabetes.

Heads Up on Diabetes

The mental and emotional health challenges of living with diabetes are very real.

“Nearly half of all adults with diabetes experience mental health challenges, including diabetes related anxiety, distress and depression during their lives,” says Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson.

Heads Up on Diabetes, launched during National Diabetes Week 2020, is designed to raise awareness of the mental health burden associated with diabetes and encourage people to seek help if they need it.

Living with Diabetes is not only stressful, managing it is time consuming and requires a great deal of organisation to get through each day including keeping track of medications, blood glucose monitoring, and constant ongoing health checks.

Mental Health Challenges

Research shows that living with a chronic condition like diabetes can more than double a person’s risk of developing depression.

“Two-thirds of people with diabetes are worried about their long-term risk of developing serious diabetes-related complications like losing limbs, eyesight, experiencing kidney failure or heart failure,” says Professor Greg Johnson.

“The mental health challenges associated with living with diabetes can make it harder for people to manage their physical health and increase their risk of developing serious diabetes-related complications.”

People living with diabetes need to stay on top their routine health checks including having regular eye examinations, which will help decrease the risk of depression.

KeepSight

A national diabetes eye health register; KeepSight, encourages people living with the disease to have regular eye examinations.

The program has been running for two years and has had a significant impact on the eye health of Australians with more than 66,000 people with diabetes now enrolled in the program.

Receiving these reminders is a great way to help people to stay on top of appointments that are set months, and sometimes, years in advance.

People living with diabetes may not experience symptoms. Many can feel that there is no need to have their eyes examined and that if everything checked out last time, then they can miss their next eye appointment or two.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic eye disease can cause a range of eye problems, the most common being Diabetic Retinopathy, in which the blood vessels inside the retina at the back of the eye are damaged.

The disease is subtle with no warning signs, so it can be easy to neglect regular eye checks. The problem though is that without annual eye examinations, diabetic eye disease can cause permanent vision loss.

Many Australians with diabetes lose their sight each year, but this can be avoided by having regular eye tests.

To find out more about diabetes visit www.diabetesaustralia.com.au or contact 1800 533 774 to arrange a free conversation with a trained psychologist.

It is important, if you have diabetes to see your local Eyecare Plus Optometrist each year to have a thorough eye examination. Book an appointment today.

Diabetes and Your Eye Health

Diabetes is a serious, complex condition which requires daily self-care and can have an enormous impact on a person’s quality of life. It is the most common cause of vision loss in working-age adults and the most common cause of preventable blindness.

The eyes are one of the main organs affected by the continuous rise in blood sugar levels for a person living with diabetes. If left unmanaged; blurred vision, cataracts, and in some cases, blindness, can occur.

A person who has diabetes requires yearly eye examinations.

Here is essential information related to diabetes and eye health.

Diabetic Retinopathy

The disease can cause a range of eye problems, the most common being Diabetic Retinopathy, in which the blood vessels inside the retina at the back of the eye are damaged.

Many Australians with diabetes lose their sight each year, but this can be avoided by having regular eye tests to detect the presence of Diabetic Retinopathy in the earliest stages.

As Diabetic Retinopathy can cause vision loss, it is important for people who have diabetes to see their local optometrist annually in order for the condition to be identified and prompt eye care treatment can be initiated.

No Warning Signs

Diabetic eye disease often has no warning signs until it has advanced, so people will often put off having annual eye examinations and place them ‘down the list’ of priorities.

“The reality is that a regular diabetes eye check is the best way to identify early problems, and then ensure early treatment,” says Taryn Black, National Policy and Program Director at Diabetes Australia.

“People with diabetes have many regular health checks they need and often diabetes eye checks are put off, or forgotten about, because there are more pressing health issues to address,” said Ms Black.

Early Detection Saves Sight

The important thing to remember is that with early detection and treatment vision loss from diabetes is preventable. Sadly, without early detection and treatment, once vision has been lost it cannot be restored.

Optometrists are at the forefront of how diabetes and eye health is managed in Australia.

By routinely conducting eye checks local optometrists are making a significant contribution to the eye health of more than 1.8 million Australians living with diabetes.

Eye Test Appointment Reminder

KeepSight, launched by Diabetes Australia last year, is an eye examination reminder system for people living with diabetes.

This program will help to significantly increase the number of eye examinations for people living with diabetes and, in doing so, will reduce the number of people who lose their sight.

KeepSight reminds people with diabetes when they are due to have their eyes check. It is also a national register of people who are having regular eye checks and who are not, allowing Diabetes Australia to target its message to those who are not consistently having their eye checked.

Your local optometrist has a very important role to play in ensuring people with diabetes have regular eye screenings and proper eye care treatment to minimise, if not prevent the debilitating effects of this disease.

A Good Safeguard

Deputy Director at the Centre for Eye Research Australia and ophthalmologist A/Prof Peter van Wijngaarden, who is a driving force behind KeepSight says the return visits for eye exams are “far below what is desirable”.

“Many of those who are found to have mild or no diabetes-related retinopathy will not return for follow-up screening at the recommended time.”

Aside from the reminders sent by your local optometrist, KeepSight reminders serve as a good safeguard to ensure people living with diabetes have their eyes checked to save them losing their sight.

The more points of contact, the greater the chance a person will have of attending follow-up examinations.

Go to KeepSight to register with the reminder program.

If you have diabetes or are experiencing other problems with your vision such as blurred vision, now is the time to take action and book an annual eye examination with your local Eyecare Plus Optometrist.

Healthy Eyes and Good Vision

A healthy diet, active lifestyle and regular eye examinations can provide immediate and long term benefits to your eye health.

It is important to have a regular comprehensive eye exam so that your optometrist can detect vision problems or eye disease long before you are aware that a problem exists.

A recent report however stated that a high proportion of people feel that they should only see their optometrist if they have obvious problems such as not being able to see objects far away (82%) or up close (81%).

Many others (31%) believe that eating carrots is good enough to improve their eyesight.

Whilst carrots are high in antioxidants beta carotene and lutein, which have several beneficial effects on our eye health, there are many other vegetables which contain lutein and zeaxanthin which are better for our eyes. These include corn and leafy greens such as spinach, turnip greens, broccoli and kale which are full of antioxidants.

As well as these vegetables there are a number of other foods which can give our eyes a nutrient boost including fresh fruit, nuts and whole grains which contain vitamin E and omega-3 found in fish which can help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and slow the progress of cataracts.

Eating nutritious food for eye health can also help slow down or prevent the progression of many other diseases, aside from AMD and cataracts, including:

Dry Eye

This is caused by a chronic lack of moisture and lubrication on the surface of the eye. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, tuna and sardines or flaxseed oil supplements can help to reduce dry eye symptoms.

Retinal Vein Occlusion

This occurs when one of the veins in the retina becomes blocked. High cholesterol and diabetes are two diseases that can cause this eye condition.

Retinitis Pigmentosa

This is a genetic degenerative eye disease that can lead to blindness. A report has shown that people with the disease, over a four to six year period, who stick to a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids experience a slower decline in distance and visual acuities.

Diabetic Retinopathy

This is an eye disease in people who have diabetes which can cause vision loss and blindness. Exercise, a healthy lifestyle, and diet, not smoking and limiting alcohol consumption can help prevent this eye disease. Regular eye check-ups help to detect early symptoms, which may not be obvious. Avoid sugary drinks and foods with added artificial sugar such as processed and fast foods.

Eating for Eye Health

The Macular Disease Foundation Australia’s (MDFA) ‘Eating for Eye Health’ cookbook by Ita Buttrose and chef Vanessa Jones is loaded with delicious recipes made up of the foods we should eat to keep our eyes healthy.

The book features more than 90 recipes, carefully selected to make it easy to prepare delicious, nutritious meals that are good for our eye health featuring fish, yellow and dark green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, and nuts.

Contact your local Eyecare Plus optometrist to book your next eye examination.

Ita’s Plea: Don’t Let COVID-19 Fears Steal Your Vision

Australian icon Ita Buttrose has issued a passionate plea to senior Australians in a bid to avoid thousands of people going unnecessarily blind during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have an important message for our older and more vulnerable Australians living with macular disease, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia,” Ms Buttrose said.

Macular disease covers a range of conditions that affect the central retina (the macula) at the back of the eye. The most common are age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and diabetic retinopathy (DR), including diabetic macular edema (DME).

AMD accounts for 50% of blindness in Australia with one in seven Australians (approximately 1.29 million) over the age of 50 having some evidence of AMD.

“I’m concerned many people who need urgent, sight-saving eye injections for diseases like wet (neovascular) AMD and diabetic macular edema are not keeping their appointments with their ophthalmologists because of fear and confusion around public health protocols.

“Missing an eye injection can seriously and permanently compromise your vision. You must not miss your sight-saving treatment,” she said.

Macular Month Message

Ita Buttrose has been Patron of Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA) for 15 years. She has a family history of AMD, with her father Charles and two of his siblings losing their sight to AMD. Thankfully, Ita’s uncle Gerald Buttrose, has retained his sight due to having regular eye injections for his wet AMD. He is now 96.

In May, during MDFA’s Macula Month, Ita Buttrose advocates for Australians over the age of 50 to see an optometrist for an eye examination, including a check of the macula.

“In a COVID-19 environment, our call to action is even more vital if we are to avoid thousands of people going unnecessarily blind on the other side of this pandemic,” warned Ms Buttrose.

“If you require injections for wet (neovascular) AMD or diabetic macular edema, or other macular conditions, it is essential that you attend your specialist appointment or discuss your treatment options with your ophthalmologist.

“Similarly, if you notice any sudden changes in your vision, or experience eye pain – even if you don’t have a diagnosed eye condition – it could be an eye emergency. It is vitally important that you contact your optometrist or ophthalmologist as soon as possible,” Ms Buttrose said.

Covid Fear Causes Cancellations

Despite reassurances from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) that eye injections are an essential treatment, ophthalmologists around Australia have seen a dramatic increase in the number of patients cancelling essential eye appointments.

“I understand that some people might be concerned about leaving their homes to get treatments,” Ms Buttrose said, “but I can assure everyone that clinics are sterile environments and stringent clinical guidelines have been put in place to ensure people’s safety.”

“Whether you are at home or living in aged care, these eye injections are vitally important to preserving sight.

“Many of you have lived through times of hardship, through wars, depressions, and times of national insecurity and anxiety. Once again, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves in an unexpected time of uncertainty, where clarity of communication and correct information is paramount.

Keep Scheduled Eye Injections

“I want to stress if you have a scheduled eye injection, if you are a family carer or someone who needs to take a person to a scheduled eye injection, and you have not been in contact with COVID-19, you are not breaching public health measures to attend that appointment. Obviously, if you are unwell, please phone first for advice.

“I understand people are apprehensive but keeping your sight must be your priority,” she said.

If you need advice about your eye health or want a free Amsler grid to monitor vision changes at home contact MDFA’s National Helpline on 1800 111 709 or your ophthalmologist or local Eyecare Plus Optometrist.

COVID-19: Top Tips for Healthy Vision

Although lockdown restrictions are slowly easing, the COVID-19 environment has caused most of us to change the way we live our lives and look after our vision.

Traditionally May is known as Macula Month, the time of year we focus on helping you understand the risks of macular disease – the most common being age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD is the single biggest cause of severe vision loss and blindness in Australia. Many people do not know they are at risk.

A comprehensive eye examination with your optometrist to check your macula will help you identify whether you are at risk of macular disease.

AMD Risk Factors

An easy way to remember AMD risk factors is to keep your vision S.A.F.E:

  1. Smoking

Smoking causes you to be four times more likely to develop AMD

  1. Age

One in seven people over the age of 50 have signs of AMD

  1. Family History

A family history is the main risk factor for AMD

  1. Eye Exams

A comprehensive eye exam is the only way to ensure AMD is picked up in its early stages

Healthy Vision Tips

While spending a lot more time at home, and out of your normal routine, it is important to know how to care for your eyes.

Here are four tips for keeping your eyes healthy and knowing the warning signs for when you need to seek help.

  1. Keep AMD Appointments

If you have already been diagnosed with a macular condition like wet AMD or Diabetic Macular Edema, and you are receiving eye injections or laser treatment, it is important to attend those appointments. Missing an urgent appointment for an eye injection or laser treatment can cause irreparable vision loss.

  1. Identifying Eye Emergencies

If you experience sudden changes in your vision, have eye pain or discomfort, new red eye symptoms, flashes of light or new floaters in your vision, recent eye trauma or new onset double vision – call your optometrist for advice immediately.

If you are concerned about leaving your home to go to an eye appointment, be assured that your local optometrist has put in place extra sterilisation and distancing protocols to ensure patient safety.

  1. The Amsler Grid

Use an Amsler Grid to help you detect changes in your vision. If you are over 50, use an Amsler grid once a week. It takes a minute or two. If you already have a diagnosed macular disease, use it daily. Your local optometrist will be able to provide you with an Amsler Grid.

  1. Have an Eye Healthy Diet

We encourage you to have an eye healthy diet that is rich in nutrients to support a healthy macula. It is as simple as eating oily fish a couple of times a week, eating plenty of dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily, and having a handful of nuts a week. Choose low glycemic index carbohydrates and limit your intake of fats. You can find recipe ideas by downloading a free Macula Menu from the Macular Disease Foundation.

If you have any questions about macular disease and whether you are at risk, or how to keep your vision safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact your local Eyecare Plus optometrist or the Macular Disease Foundation.

MDFA has a range of free publications, covering everything from disease information, to diet and supplements to support macular health. The National MDFA Helpline is 1800 111 709.

As restrictions ease, now is a good time to book a comprehensive eye examination with your local Eyecare Plus practice so they can check your macula to help you identify whether you are at risk of macular disease.