Throwing light on sight loss – and the solution

Moyra Manifold outside her Gailearai Beag. Photo: Ciaran Mac Choncarraige.

Two years ago, retired art teacher Moyra Manifold went to get her eyes tested with nothing more pressing than the belief she needed stronger reading glasses – only it turned out to be a little bit more than that.

The Galway antique shop owner was diagnosed with Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the number one cause of sight loss in Ireland for those aged over 50, with more than 7,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

She knew all about the condition, because her brother was diagnosed with the same thing around ten years previously. He had described it as ‘like a cloud in front of your eyes that gets denser’.

Moyra also found she struggled to see straight ahead and noticed she was reading the Sunday newspaper sideways in order to be able to see the small print.

Yet, even though Moyra was experiencing these symptoms, she said there was ‘no big change’ in her eyesight and described it as quite a gradual deterioration.

Soon after her diagnosis, Moyra had a cataract operation which she described as a ‘quick and short treatment’.

Moyra classes herself as very lucky. “If you don’t have it treated you could go blind,” she said and since she has retired, she has owned an antique shop in Galway called An Gailearaí Beag and is an avid painter so having good eye sight is vital for her.

AMD is hereditary, and Moyra believes her mother also had the condition, but people weren’t aware of it at the time.

Moyra said she remembers her mother wearing strong glasses and getting books with large print from the library for her but was able to tell that she still couldn’t see properly.

This week marked the eleventh annual AMD Awareness Week and the theme for this year is ‘Sightsee with Me.”

Sightseeing and travelling with family is enjoyed by many people and the campaign aims to highlight the importance of managing eye health to continue to see impressive sights with loved ones.

Although Moyra likes travelling, she has nothing planned at the moment but recently went on a trip to Transylvania with her friend from Art College which she described as ‘great fun’.

She went on her first guided tour and ‘absolutely loved it’ and said there was a mix of all different ages there.

“They could all see where they were going and so could I,” she said.

As part of the awareness week, Novartis, a multinational pharmaceutical company, offered free AMD eye testing on an open top bus travelling the country and also provided information on the condition.

And, with the help of the Association of Optometrists Ireland, Fighting Blindness, the Irish College of Ophthalmologists and the National Council for the Blind they provided a range of other targeted initiatives that encouraged people over 50 to get an AMD eye test to ensure they continued to see the things they love.

The National Council for the Blind of Ireland also hosted coffee mornings during the week to raise public awareness and to encourage discussion about the condition.

Lynda McGivney-Nolan, Optometric Advisor to Association of Optometrists said that optometrists are trained to identify the early changes at the macula which can appear before your eye sight is affected and they are also trained to give you the best advice on how to reduce and manage your risk of developing AMD.

“If you have any concerns about your vision, you should always talk to your optometrist,” she said.