Caring Australians lose sight of their own eye health


Jean Kittson, like many her age, is facing one of the busiest times of her life. One of Australia’s most-loved performers Jean juggles her family and work commitments and the welfare of ageing parents in their 90s.

Research commissioned by Macular Disease Foundation Australia, reveals that Jean isn’t alone. Seventy-five per cent of Australians aged 50 to 64 years are providing weekly care and support to older parents in some way and almost half (46 per cent) are supporting grandchildren.

The research also showed that this group, who is facing a multitude of modern day demands, is not making their sight a priority. Only six per cent say that an eye disease check is their top health check priority.

‘Many people my age find themselves in this “sandwich” situation and are often doing more caring for family members than they expected and consequently are putting their own health and wellbeing needs further down the to-do list,' Jean says.

‘I manage my health primarily because my family and I are a team.’

Macular Disease Foundation Australia Patron Ita Buttrose says it is concerning the research showed the prioritisation of eye health was extremely low.

‘This at-risk group of Australians clearly is not heeding preventative health messages. They are juggling family, possibly career and community activities, while trying not to let down those around them. However, they could be letting themselves down by not investing time in their own eye health.’

Macular degeneration is an age-related disease with one in seven Australians over 50 having some evidence of it. People with a family history of Macular Degeneration have a 50 per cent chance of developing the disease.

With a strong genetic history of macular degeneration – Ita’s father and three of his siblings developed the disease – Ita knows she’s at risk.

‘I make sure I look after my sight as I’ve seen firsthand with my late father how devastating living with vision loss can be, but I also know that early detection can save sight. My Uncle Gerald is proof of this. Thanks to treatment that has maintained his sight he was still driving at 92,’ she says.

Like Ita, Jean is aware of the family risk as her mother lives with macular degeneration.

‘I make sure I get an eye test and macula check every year and I try to eat as many salads, vegies and fish as possible – they are all recommended for good eye health,’ she says.

Macular Disease Foundation Australia CEO Julie Heraghty says: ‘This Macular Degeneration Awareness Week all Australians over 50 are reminded to have an eye test and macula check. Vision is critical to maintain quality of life and independence, so it is vital that those over 50 have regular eye tests as prevention, early detection and timely treatment can save sight.’

For a free macular degeneration information kit contact Macular Disease Foundation Australia 1800 111 709 or visit


About Macular Degeneration Awareness Week – Sunday 21 May to Saturday 27 May 2017

An annual event to raise awareness of macular degeneration and to encourage those most at risk, people over 50, to have their eyes tested and macula checked.

About macular degeneration

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia. Macular degeneration is the name given to a group of chronic, degenerative retinal eye diseases that cause progressive loss of central vision, leaving the peripheral or side vision intact. Macular degeneration is usually related to ageing and most frequently affects people over 50 years of age. It is commonly referred to as age-related macular degeneration or AMD. Research related to the estimated prevalence and key facts refer to AMD.

About Macular Disease Foundation Australia

Macular Disease Foundation Australia’s vision is to reduce the incidence and impact of macular disease in Australia through education, awareness, research, support services and representation. The Foundation is a national charity providing information, guidance and support for those living with macular disease. It is the voice of the macular disease community.