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NGOs Push to Disarm a "European Time Bomb" of Age-Related Sight Loss

ROME, December 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --

AMD Alliance International  (AMDAI), World Blind Union  (WBU) and International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness  (IAPB) Italy launch a campaign to disarm "a European time bomb" of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) sight loss by providing tools for healthcare practitioners and local organisations aimed at helping them to raise awareness among the general public and plan appropriate interventions.

In Europe there are 30 million blind and partially-sighted persons, and this number is likely to grow given the ageing population. Yet, 50% of blindness in Europe is preventable.[1] The leading cause of blindness in Europe is AMD, ahead of cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

AMD occurs in a portion of the retina called the macula. Abnormal blood vessels grow beneath the macula where they leak causing damage to cells that are responsible for our sharp central vision. The main risk factor is ageing but prevention and early diagnosis are key to controlling the disease.

We all have a role in preventing AMD and other eye diseases. The toolkit we are launching today at our Regional EU meeting in Rome should in the first place help local organisations and healthcare practitioners develop awareness-raising initiatives for older people who are at higher risk of developing AMD, but also their friends, relatives and carers. - says Narinder Sharma, CEO of AMDAI.

The toolkit will be disseminated among all interested parties and can be found at http://www.amdalliance.org/wbu

Both NGOs and governments need to recognise the growth in age related sight loss and plan appropriate interventions. This toolkit will help them understand the challenge and plan necessary services. - adds Alan Suttie, Chairman of World Blind Union's Elderly Working Group and Coordinator of the European Elderly Blind Network.

This effort comes amidst a wider initiative of the European Forum Against Blindness - an alliance of advocacy groups, including AMDAI, which is seeking to raise these issues with the European Institutions and governments, to reduce the incidence and burden of preventable blindness in Europe.

In 2013 we will launch a Call to Action to EU policy makers as we believe that this problem is neglected at the moment - says Narinder Sharma. Blindness is both a personal tragedy and a burden to society. It results in healthcare costs of around $11,400 per patient per year, as well as substantial productivity loss for the economy.[2] - adds Giuseppe Castronovo, President of the Italian Branch of IAPB.

Franca-Maria Torti, an AMD sufferer herself underlines also a personal responsibility - Governments and NGOs are important but disarming this "blindness bomb" requires an effort from all of us. We need to take responsibility - get your eyes checked regularly by a doctor but also at home using a simple test (a grid I see deformed, as if it was drawn on a wrinkled paper). To prevent AMD avoid smoking, control your cholesterol and weight and have a diet rich in dark green, leafy vegetables.

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