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Get your pharmacy ready for Macula Month in May

Pharmacists are being urged to jump on board Macula Month – Macular Disease Foundation Australia’s (MDFA) main public awareness campaign, which will run for the entire month of May.

MDFA has a digital toolkit, available now for use by Australian pharmacists during Macula Month.

The toolkit will contain digital imagery and messaging that will allow pharmacists to capitalise on MDFA’s wider public campaign.

MDFA’s Macula Month campaign aims to raise general awareness of macular disease and reduce its incidence and impact. Macular disease covers a range of painless conditions that affect the central retina (the macula) at the back of the eye.

The most common of these are age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy (DR), including diabetic macular edema (DME).

“We’d really encourage pharmacists to get behind our national campaign to help Australians at risk of, or living with a macular disease, to look after their eye health,” MDFA CEO Dee Hopkins said.

“This year, our focus will be on educating the general public about the hereditary and familial aspects of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).”

Research shows the risk of AMD is greatly increased by having a first-degree relative (sibling or parent) with AMD. As well, the age of onset of the disease is often earlier.1

Although not strictly hereditary, AMD does have a strong familial link and there are certain genes that have been found to be associated with AMD. A person with a parent or sibling with AMD has a 50 per cent risk of developing it.2 It is estimated that genetic factors play a role in up to 70 per cent of cases.3

But Ms Hopkins said MDFA was concerned that the message about the hereditary risk wasn’t getting through to patients.

“We’ve been asking callers to our National Helpline – members of the macular disease community – what they know about the hereditary nature of AMD, and many express surprise.

“They say they haven’t been told about the hereditary risk, and so they haven’t told their own children and siblings about the increased risk of AMD.

“On first diagnosis of AMD, patients receive a lot of information and have a lot to process – it may be that the information just isn’t being absorbed.

“That’s where MDFA can help. We have the time to spend with clients, providing information about disease, the latest news on macular disease research and reinforcing diet and lifestyle advice. We can also help direct them to the various supports and services on offer,” Ms Hopkins said.

Ms Hopkins said pharmacists had a significant role to play in educating people about eye health, and the importance of regular macula checks.

“Pharmacists will see a lot of people in the 50+ age group, to provide medicines and products for other unrelated illnesses and condition. Age alone is a big risk factor for AMD. One in seven people over the age of 50 have some evidence of AMD. We’d like pharmacists to consider providing people in the relevant age bracket with one of our brochures on AMD, and an Amsler grid (a free, easy to use tool that can assist people to quickly monitor their vision at home).

“If people are buying appropriate nutritional supplements to support macula health either for themselves or on behalf of a family member, or if they’re buying products to help manage diabetes – that’s an opening to talk to them about the need for regular comprehensive eye examinations.

“Pharmacists have that consistent contact with people in their local communities. That trust and influence shouldn’t be underestimated.”

Ms Hopkins said in addition to the toolkit for health professionals, MDFA is able to assist with free general information about a range of macular diseases and provide free Amsler grids. Everyone in the 50+ age group should regularly use an Amsler grid to check for symptoms of AMD, but this does not replace an eye exam or macula check by a qualified eye health professional.


MDFA’s National Helpline is 1800 111 709.

You can order your free digital toolkit, which includes posters, social media tiles and messaging, information brochures and Amsler grids from mdfoundation.com.au/resources.


References

  1. Shahid, H et al., ‘Age-related macular degeneration: the importance of family history as a risk factor.’ Br J Ophthalmol 2012; 96:427_4531.
  2. Klaver C et al. ‘Genetic risk of age-related maculopathy. Population-based familial aggregation study’ Arch Ophthalmol 1998; 116:1646-1651.
  3. Eyes on the future – a clear outlook on age-related macular degeneration. Report by Deloitte Access Economics & Macular Degeneration Foundation, 2011.
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