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Appeal to the Over 50's: Have Your Eyes Tested

New Zealand's medical eye specialists today appealed to all New Zealanders - particularly those over 50 years - to have their eyes tested on a regular basis.

Supporting World Sight Day 2003 (Thursday 9 October) and the aims of Vision 2020

The Right to Sight, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists said it was imperative that those over 50 recognised that eye diseases could easily rob them of their sight if undetected and not treated appropriately.

College President, Dr Bruce Hadden, of Auckland, said eye disease increases threefold with each decade of life after the age of 40. He said anyone over 50 who has not had their eyes tested recently should organise for a test as soon as possible and then be re-tested as advised by their eye care practitioner.

"Regular testing is particularly important for anyone whose family has had a history of eye diseases such as glaucoma and age related macular degeneration," said Dr Hadden.

He said 50 per cent of blindness and 70 per cent of vision impairment was treatable or preventable. The main causes of vision loss in New Zealand are glaucoma, age related macular degeneration and cataract.

"Glaucoma often is called the sneak thief of sight. You may have glaucoma and not be aware. Current estimates are that one to two per cent of people over the age of 40 and ten per cent of those over the age of 70 have glaucoma. About half are not aware that they have this progressive condition and, thus, are not on treatment."

Age related macular degeneration is a condition that affects the central vision mainly in those over the age of 60. Although it does not cause total blindness, it can take away the ability to drive and read and, when severe, can prevent one from living independently. Cataracts also develop as a part of the ageing process. By the age of 60, about half of all adults will have some cataract formation.

Dr Hadden said an examination by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist took only about 30 minutes. "As we get older, the risks of eye disease are greater and so are the associated risks of diminishing eyesight on our mobility and enjoyment of life. Those 30 minutes undergoing a few tests are time well spent," he said.


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