Caring

Courtney Allan

Ita Buttrose’s important message for people with this disease

Ita Buttrose’s important message for people with this disease

Ita Buttrose, the new Chair of the ABC, has urged those with a history of macular disease to get regularly checked for the degenerative eye condition.

She wants all Australians to know that if a family member has macular disease, which is also the nation’s leading cause of blindness and vision loss, there is a whopping 50 per cent chance a member of the same family will contract the disease.

As the patron of the Macular Disease Foundation of Australia, 77-year-old Buttrose has been vigilant in raising awareness about the disease.

“We are trying very hard to get the message across that if you have a family member with macular disease, you have to be very vigilant and you have to have your eyes checked on a regular basis — every two years — and you have to make sure the specialist or the optician checks your macular,” Buttrose said to The Daily Telegraph.

Buttrose has been personally impacted by the disease, as her beloved father Charles contracted the disease in his 70s and never recovered his eyesight before his passing in 1999.

“There were seven siblings in dad’s family and of the seven, four got macular degeneration, so you can see how hereditary it is,” she said.

“When dad was diagnosed, there was no Macular Disease Foundation, so I contacted the Royal Blind Society and I got every helpful device that I could find — things for phones, things that could make prints larger — whatever might help him.

“His great joy in life was reading the newspapers every morning and suddenly he couldn’t because you lose your central vision — your macular is what provides your central vision. It’s just behind the retina so it’s what enables you to read, to do fine needlework, distinguish faces, drive … All these sorts of things.”

She also explains that 1 in 7 Australians over the age of 50 display some sign of macular degeneration.

Her father’s brother, Gerald, has been luckier than his older sibling, but has also had over 100 injections to save his eye and his vision.

“My Uncle Gerald — he’s 96 in August — his vision was saved because we now have injections for wet macular. There are two types of macular, wet and dry — there is no treatment for dry. He managed to drive until he was 93, he’s given it up now, but he still reads, he still writes family histories.”

Due to Buttrose’s family history, she remains ever vigilant.

“I’m very vigilant. I get my macular checked every year because I know I am at risk because of the family history. The ophthalmologist always says, “Oh, your macular is pristine”, and it’s good, thank you.”

An eye examination once a year and a macular check every two years is a standard recommendation for those over 50 with a family history of the disease.