Bill Murphy suffers from wet macular degeneration.
Bill Murphy suffers from wet macular degeneration. Alistair Brightman

Hervey Bay electorate among worst for major eye disease

REGULAR injections into the eye and a daily regime of tablets are all part of what Hervey Bay man Bill Murphy must go through to save his sight.

He is one of an estimated 9720 people in the Hinkler electorate who suffer from macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia's older generation.

A new report has shown Hinkler has the third-highest prevalence of the disease of every electorate in the country.

By 2030, it is expected to have the second-highest prevalence with predictions 18,687 Hinkler residents will be diagnosed in the next two decades.

The report was issued by the Macular Disease Foundation of Australia.

For Mr Murphy, the first warning signs came with a black spot in his right eye and the loss of his central vision.

The 89-year-old has been living with wet macular degeneration, one of two types of the disease, since 2011 and has had to give up reading and writing.

He has also been put on new medication to prevent any degeneration in his left eye.

Mr Murphy urged anyone who noticed a change in their central vision to get it checked immediately.

Both he and his wife use an Amsler Grid eye exam, which takes pride of place on their fridge, to self-monitor their sight.

Macular Disease Foundation general manager Lucy Walker said the foundation hoped to have an Amsler Grid in every household in coming years.

"It's this self monitoring that's really important," she said.

"Time is of the essence in treating wet MD.

"It leads to sudden and very severe vision loss."

The foundation's report has shown the Wide Bay electorate is also expected to have one of the highest rates of macular degeneration by 2030, coming in at number 20 in Australia.

The increasing number of people with macular degeneration could face major issues getting treatment through the public system, as none of the Wide Bay's three major hospitals

have a public ophthalmologist.

Instead, public patients from the Fraser Coast are put on a long waiting list at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.

Mrs Walker said research done by the foundation had shown people in regional areas would stop treatment for wet macular degeneration if it couldn't be done locally.

"We know there's a real risk people will drop out of treatment because it's just too challenging," she said.

Wet macular degeneration can progress rapidly and needs to be treated with a regular series of injections.

Macular Degeneration

  • This week will mark Macular Degeneration Awareness Week, a national effort to encourage older people to monitor changes in their eyesight for signs of the disease
  • Macular degeneration affects the macular, the central part of the retina
  • Dry macular degeneration is a slow moving form of the disease, while wet macular degeneration can cause sudden and severe loss of central vision
  • Symptoms include difficulty reading, straight lines appearing curved or wavy and dark patches in the centre of your vision

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