It is the leading cause of blindness in Irish people over the age of 50, but when Liam O’Flynn felt something pop in his eye while watching TV, the last thing he thought of was age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
About 14 years ago, the retired mechanic, 76, from Ballinlough Rd in Cork City felt something pop in his left eye and experienced blurred vision as he sat watching TV.
“All that day I had felt there was something wrong with the eye, as if there was an eyelash under my eyelid,” he said. “The sight in the left eye deteriorated, my vision became foggy and I thought I felt something pop. It didn’t hurt, but I definitely had that sensation.”
His GP sent Mr O’Flynn to hospital, where tests showed he had had a haemorrhage in the back of the eye. He was told nothing could be done.
“All that was left in the eye was peripheral vision — no central vision — and it was very poor,” he said.
Around 2005, Mr O’Flynn experienced similar blurring in his right eye. This time he was diagnosed with AMD, a disease which causes gradual sight loss due to blurring or loss of central vision, often due to the deterioration of the macula, a structure at the back of the eye.
A chronic disease which affects almost 100,000 people in this country, AMD cannot be cured, and in many cases, once lost, sight cannot be restored. However, public awareness of the condition is important — early detection is crucial as certain forms of the disease can be treated.
Mr O’Flynn was referred to University Hospital Limerick, where his treatment involved injections every six weeks for 10 years. He is still receiving regular injections, although now it is at two- or three-monthly intervals.
“My right eye is very good. I can now drive again, read and watch TV,” he said.
An initiative to highlight the condition begins today with the launch of National AMD Awareness Week which runs until next Sunday.
As part of the campaign, member of the public over the age of 50 can avail of free testing for AMD in participating eye care providers nationwide and at the Novartis AMD mobile testing unit, which will visit Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Dublin and Galway throughout the week.
The unit will visit the following locations during the week:
Saturday: Cork City Library, Grand Parade 10am-1pm; Cork Golf Club, Little Island 2pm-5pm.
Friday: Pedestrian area, Broad St, 10am-1pm; Waterford Golf Club, Newrath 2pm-6pm.
Thursday: Limerick City Library 10am-1pm; Castletroy Golf Club, Golf Links Road 2pm-6pm.
Wednesday : Ballybane Library 10am-1pm; Galway Golf Club 2pm-6pm.
Tuesday: County Library Tallaght 10am-1pm; Dún Laoghaire Lexicon Library 3.30pm-6pm.
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