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Health Topics - Vision

Living with Vision Loss

Regular vision and eye examinations are an essential part of life for all ages, and assist in the detection of conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration. We have endeavoured to link you to pages where you can find further information and assistance.


Save Our Sight
Since 2002 the New Zealand Association of Optometrists have been leading a health promotion campaign promoting regular eye examinations. For further information to go the Save our Sight website. What is Save Our Sight?. Watch the short Video.

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Age Related Macular Degeneration
Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) is an eye disease that causes loss of central vision, leaving only peripheral, or side, vision intact. It is the leading cause of blindness for people over 50 in New Zealand. The macula is part of the retina that is reponsible for central vision which is needed for reading, driving and recognising facial expressions. There are two types of age-related macular degeneration.

  • Dry ARMD occurs when the retina thins and sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down. Over time, people start to lose the central vision in the affected eye because less of the macula is working. Dry AMD often occurs in one eye at first, although people may get the disease in the other eye later.
  • Wet ARMD is caused when new blood vessels behind the retina start growing towards the macula. These blood vessels are very fragile and can lead blood and fluid causing rapid damage and severe vision loss in a very short time.

Things you can do for your maculas:

  • Stop smoking
  • Eat a diet rich in fresh fruit and dark green leafy vegetables
  • Eat fish at least twice a week
  • Protect your eyes from ultraviolet light
  • Control cholesterol and blood pressure levels
  • Check your vision regularly

To find out more about this disease view the New Zealand Association of Optometrists website or phone 0800 4 EYECARE (0800 439 322).

Living with Macular Degeneration
Macular Degeneration (MD) does not cause blindness. It causes loss of central vision, which means a dark patch, blank space or patch of distorted vision in the middle of the vision. The keys to managing Macular Degeneration (MD) are magnification, lighting and contrast.

How do magnifiers help?
Imagine looking out the window and in the middle of your view is a blurry hazy patch. You can still see where you are going, but you may have trouble reading a sign in the distance. If however, you are looking at a small word on a page and there is a patch over the word, you cannot make out what the word says. If you magnify the word, make it much bigger, the patch does not cut out as much of the word and you are able to get the meaning of the word.
The larger the patch in the vision, the stronger the magnifier required to see the word. As magnifiers get stronger they usually get smaller, so that the individual letters look bigger but fewer letters can be seen in the magnifier without moving it. There are many different magnifiers available. A “Low Vision” assessment is required to get the right type of magnifier.

What is contrast?
Contrast is how we see things against their background. MD also has the effect of reducing contrast sensitivity so things don’t stand out from their background as well as they used to. Newsprint is an example of very poor contrast. The most important ways of improving contrast are colour and light.

The importance of light in md
The macular contains the most light sensitive cells in the retina. When these cells are not working properly more light is needed.
Lighting improves contrast.
Strong light makes the pupils smaller, which aids focus
The closer the light is, the stronger it is. For tasks such as reading, writing, sewing or cooking a light should be placed as close as possible to the task. This means using a lamp, even during the day.

Combine magnifier + light
Magnifiers often have a light built in. This is particularly helpful as the light is then always in the right place wherever it is being used.

The key to living with MD is understanding the problem and using magnification, lighting and contrast to compensate for the loss of central vision.

For more information visit www.sightloss-services.com
For consultation appointments phone (09) 520 5208 or 0800 555 546

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Glaucoma

  • Glaucoma is an eye condition that often involves pressure in the eye and damage to the optic nerve.  Left untreated, glaucoma can cause loss of sight in just a few years.
  • People at risk are:
    • people with a parent, brother or sister with glaucoma
    • people who are over 60 years old
    • people with certain medical conditions: high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, or a history of migraine.
    • people who take steroids over a prolonged period
    • people with a history of eye injury
    • people who have injuries involving sudden blood loss
    • people who are myopic (short sighted) in primary open angle glaucoma;
    • people who are hyperopic (long sighted) in angle closure glaucoma.
  • Symptoms: usually none except vision loss, in advanced cases.
  • Treatment: If detected early, glaucoma can be managed and further loss of vision prevented by drops or, in some cases, surgery
  • In a few cases, glaucoma will develop rapidly with blurred vision, loss of side vision, seeing coloured halos around lights, redness of the eye, nausea or vomiting and pain in the eye.  This is serious and should be treated as a medical emergency.

For more informaton visit Save our Sight

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Diabetes Related Retinopathy
People with diabetes are at risk of blindness and loss of vision because of the disease.  There are over 240,000 people with diabetes in New Zealand with an estimated 100,000 additional people who have it but don’t know.

  • Cause: Diabetes causes changes in the cells of the retina that result in weakness in the walls of the blood vessels.  These tiny blood vessels at the back of the eye begin to bulge and leak oozing blood into the eye. Cellular changes can also cause fats and fluid to leak into the surrounding tissues.  Resulting damage to the eyes can lead to permanent loss of vision.
  • Symptoms: Although there may be no obvious signs in the early stages of the disease as it progresses people will notice rapid changes in vision and may have difficulty in achieving stable vision.  They may also experience sensitivity to glare and reduced night vision.
  • What you can do: It is important for people with diabetes to keep their blood glucose levels under control, maintain a healthy weight, and get regular exercise.  They need to be enrolled in the annual diabetes get checked program and take part in yearly screening for eye disease.  If eye screening is not available then they should see their optometrist every year for a full eye exam.
  • Good News: People who maintain a healthy lifestyle and control blood glucose levels are less likely to develop diabetes related retinopathy.  With annual screening any threats to sight that do develop can be detected and treated promptly minimising the risk of permanent loss of vision

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Cataract
These are the result of chemical changes in the lens of the eye and cause the clear lens to turn cloudy.  Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss.

  • Cause: Advancing age, heredity, injury, or disease.
  • Symptoms: Blurred or hazy vision, increased sensitivity to glare or the feeling of having a film over the eyes.
  • What you can do: Don’t smoke and avoid over-exposure to bright sunlight.
  • Good News: Most people who undergo cataract surgery have significantly better vision afterwards. Optometrists can assess cataract and monitor the condition.  At some stage surgery will be indicated but until then changes to spectacles or contact lenses can help people get the most out of their remaining eyesight.

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Websites of Interest

  • Age Related Macular Degeneration is a very prevalent form of eye disease affecting millions of older people worldwide. Try the website Age Related Macular Degeneration.
  • The Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind are well known for their practical assistance for people who are vision impaired. Click on their link above to find out more.
  • The New Zealand Association of Optometrists have an information page on eye health. The website includes an article on the Ageing Eye, your requirements for driving, Glaucoma, and various eye conditions.
  • The Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand (ABC NZ) has ensured that the blind speak for themselves to Government, service providers, and the community in general. On this site, you'll learn about their work, and will have the opportunity to access frequently updated information about the ABC NZ's activities.
  • Here is a link to The New Zealand Organisation for Deafblind People. You can also try the link to www.deafblind.com. This a very informative and comprehensive website set up by James Gallagher who is deafblind. The website discusses a wealth of information and has many resources and websites to search.
  • Association of Blind Citizens is a New Zealand website for people with vision loss.
  • Sight Loss Services Charitable Trust provides information, resources and support for people with Low Vision i.e. who have some degree of loss of vision but are not blind.
  • Lensprices - the aim of this website is to provide consumers with the latest information on developments in the contact lens industry and to publish informative articles relating to eye care. The website also features a contact lens price comparison service that lets consumers compare the prices of lenses offered by NZ online lens retailers. Lensprices.co.nz is an independent service and the website is not owned by any of the manufacturers or resellers of contact lenses.

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