Not enough done to prevent vision loss
Tue, 29 May 2012 3:13p.m.
Preventing vision loss among ageing New Zealanders should be a national health priority, a University of Auckland academic says.
Associate Professor Philip Polkinghorne, from the Department of Ophthalmology, says the Government isn't doing enough to address macular degeneration, a condition which can result in total blindness.
Assoc Prof Polkinghorne says macular degeneration, which is preventable if it's caught in time, is about four times as common as dementia.
Figures from 2009 indicate that 48 percent of blind New Zealanders over the age of 50 had the condition.
"What we really need is a big public awareness push," Prof Polkinghorne said.
"This is where the Government has to step in and come to the party. We need to make this a public health issue, because the cost of not doing that is too high."
Prof Polkinghorne said people with macular degeneration usually end up in a rest home about three years earlier than normally sighted people.
They also might not be able to drive and are more prone to fall and injure themselves.
He said macular degeneration is easily detected through a simple retinal screen.
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