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The health of your eyes is critical to your overall wellbeing. The importance of visual health cannot be overlooked. Your eyes, like all the other organs in your body, are subjected to stress, injury and deterioration. Maintaining your visual health is important as you grow older.

Prohealth interviewed Mr Mario Vella, clinical chairman of the ophthalmic department at Mater Dei, on the importance of visual health. Mr Vella pointed out that maintaining and upholding perfect visual health is important.  Yearly eye check-ups are necessary for both children and adults of all ages.

In instances where people have a family history of Glaucoma and Diabetes, further tests and screening programs are required. In glaucoma-related cases, the internal eye pressure is checked to identify whether the visual field is affected or not. Whereas, with diabetes, internal photos of the eye are taken to identify if there are blood leakages in the eye, which are then rectified with laser eye surgery.

What is AMD?

Another medical condition that is prevalent in both Malta and Gozo is Age-Related Macular Degeneration and since Malta and Gozo has an ageing population, this medical condition is becoming more common. It is an eye condition that may result in blurred or no vision in the centre of the retina, known as the macula. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people aged 50 and over.

AMD does not lead to complete blindness. The patient would still have navigational vision, being able to identify objects in their surroundings, but would not make out the finer details. This interferes with daily tasks such as the ability to read, drive, write, discern faces as well as carrying day to day chores.

There are two types of AMD. Dry Macular Degeneration, in which the patients have early and intermediate stages of AMD. In this case, AMD progresses slowly over time but still affects vision. Wet Macular Degeneration occurs in people who have advanced AMD. Bad circulation in the retina, results in the body trying to bypass that area and bridging the gap by creating new blood vessels. These can bleed and create a swelling beneath the retina, causing blurriness in the macular area leading to blank spots and loss of clarity.

Who is at Risk?

Age is the major risk factor in AMD. This medical condition is most likely to occur in people after the age of 50. Other risk factors include:

Smoking – smoking doubles the risk of AMD

Race – most common to occur in Caucasians

Family History and Genetics – people with a family history of AMD are at a higher risk than others.

The Preventative Measures of AMD

Dry macular degeneration can be prolonged by taking vitamins purposely formulated for the eye. They do not stop but slow down the process, however, the vitamins need to be taken regularly and consistently. These vitamins contain a healthy dose of Omega-3 fatty acids, Zinc, Vitamin C and E, lutein and zeaxanthin.

In the case of wet macular degeneration, injections are administered in the early stages to dry up the newly formed blood vessels, to slow their growth. Further testing is carried out to check whether the swelling has subsided.

It is important to note that the early, intermediate and advanced stages of AMD cannot be cured but preventative measures can be taken.  The vitamins mentioned earlier delay the onset of late AMD and help slow vision loss in people affected by AMD.

AMD occurs less often in people who exercise, are non-smokers, eat a healthy and well-balanced diet consisting of leafy, green vegetables and fish.

Above all, patients that suffer from AMD are given low vision aids that help them live autonomous lives, such as talking computers, magnifiers and household gadgets that improve their daily lives.

Raising Awareness for Visual Impairment and Maintaining Visual Health

As part of Prohealth’s ongoing Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, Prohealth has teamed up with Tactile: 12 concealed sculptures exhibition and its Curator Jesmond Vassallo, as their main sponsor. The aim is to help raise awareness about visual health and improving the lives of people that have visual impairment.

Tactile: 12 Concealed Sculptures is a visual arts exhibition with the sole purpose to reverse any preconceived notions of the ‘normal’ process of perceiving visual art exclusively through sight. By having the sculptures concealed from the naked eye, audiences are left to understand the artworks through the sense of touch. The aim is to raise awareness on how visually impaired people experience art.

Through Prohealth’s strong links in the medical field and backing by Mr Mario Vella, they are launching new ophthalmic products within the Maltese market that make a valuable contribution to maintaining normal vision.

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