“Research to promote cures is so important. If a cure came along tomorrow, it would significantly improve my life.”
– Robert Kerr, age-related macular degeneration patient.
AMD is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in older Australians with one in seven Australians over the age of 50 – that’s 1.3 million people – having some signs of the disease.
As we age, our eyes go through some changes.
The macula, the small central area of the retina at the back of the eye, is responsible for our sharp central vision. AMD occurs when the light-sensitive cells of the macula gradually break down, leading to blurred central vision.
As the disease advances, vision loss can become more serious.
AMD has had a great impact on our supporter Robert Kerr’s quality of life.
“Reading is difficult and performing activities that require detailed vision, is very challenging. Also, if I lose track of Faith, my wife in the supermarket, I remember what clothes she’s wearing, as facial recognition is getting harder.”
Robert, a retired economist, “started wearing glasses in my mid-40s for reading but in good light I could read without glasses. Over the years I saw an optometrist and my glasses got stronger.
“However, in 2000 an eye check showed early signs of AMD which unfortunately became more noticeable over the last 10 years and progressively worse over the last five years. I knew what was in store for me. My father had the same issue and walked with a white stick. Technological aides back then were not as helpful, and he spent a great deal of time listening to the radio,” explains Robert.
The impact on Robert’s life since the diagnosis “has been profound.”
“It has affected my driving and reading. Recognising people is challenging. I’m a keen bushwalker, on my morning walk along the Deepdene Track, I can’t tell if it’s someone I know, so I tend to smile at everyone, just in case!”
Robert’s diagnosis is dry (atrophic) AMD, caused by the gradual atrophy (loss) of retinal cells and has led to a loss of central vision, especially in his left eye which is more affected than his right.
Currently there is no treatment available for the dry AMD. Our goal is to prevent vision loss – and ultimately, find cures to restore sight for people like Robert.
We need your help to find better treatments for age-related macular degeneration.
Eye research with real-life impact
As true innovators, our Macular Research Unit (MRU), led by world-leading researcher Professor Robyn Guymer AM, aims to improve understanding of the disease processes and find treatments for both wet and dry AMD.
“We have a good treatment for wet AMD, the most devastating form of the disease, where vision loss can be sudden and dramatic – though there are still trials to find better treatments. But there is currently no treatment for dry AMD, the more common form, which develops slowly and results in gradual vision loss.”
“There is good news on the horizon though, with over 50 clinical trials registered worldwide for dry AMD,” explains Professor Guymer.
One such trial, headed by CERA researcher Dr Zhichao Wu, is MAPS (Microperimetry for Atrophy Progression Study).
MRU researchers previously measured how the ability to perceive light in the macular is compromised in those with AMD. The new technique will involve measuring how well people can perceive light at precise locations inside the eye, guided by retinal images.
This method will enable highly targeted testing for the earliest signs of the disease and comprehensive mapping of macular function in those with more established disease.
The early detection of any form of macular degeneration is crucial to saving sight.
Our researchers and clinicians are dedicated to saving sight and offering hope to patients like Robert who are affected by vision loss.