LAST year Cappamore woman Maureen Hogan told the Limerick Leader that she didn’t recognise her daughter when she sat beside her at mass – and Felicity Roche, from Abington knows exactly how she feels.
Both East Limerick ladies have an eye condition called AMD (age-related macular degeneration), the leading cause of registered blindness in Ireland.
It affects one in ten people over the age of 50, but unlike other conditions, such as glaucoma, awareness of AMD is very low.
Thankfully after noticing deterioration in their vision they sought treatment in the Regional and their sight has improved dramatically. “I can understand what Ms Hogan said about her daughter, you just see a silhouette of the face but not the details, which is quite disconcerting,” said Ms Roche, whose late mother, Joan Bawtree, also had AMD.
“In 2004 I was finding reading very difficult. I went to Specsavers. I had been to another optician and they didn’t say anything so I thought I would go to Specsavers. To my surprise on examination they told me I had AMD and referred me to Dr Marie Hickey Dwyer in the Regional,” she added.
Up to 10 years ago there wasn’t any useful treatment for AMD, which is bleeding at the back of the eye. But in the last five years there have been dramatic improvements and the Regional was the first in the country to pioneer injections in to the eyeball,
“I started having injections in 2006. It did improve after the injections and now I’m seeing better. I love reading and when I heard I wouldn’t be able to drive my heart absolutely sank. Thank God these injections came on the market,” said Ms Roche, who was married to the late Larry Roche and has three children Nicola, Christopher and Patricia.
She can still drive, travel, watch television and live life to the full. She finds using a high contrast programme on her computer; having good lighting; wearing sun glasses and a cap with a peak all help to reduce glare.
“So many people complain about the HSE. I must say the eye department in the Regional is extremely efficient and well run, and the staff are very kind and helpful,” said Ms Roche.
Dr Hickey Dwyer, consultant ophthalmic surgeon, said in the worst case scenario if Ms Roche didn’t have treatment she wouldn’t have gone totally blind but her independent living would be challenged.
“Thanks to treatment she can go about her daily business, travel and drive her car,” said Dr Hickey Dwyer. She stresses that the service is offered to everybody through the health service and if you experience distortion, blurring or rapid sight degeneration get in contact with your optician or GP immediately.
“The longer they have the condition the effects of the injections are not as good, “ she said.
AMD Awareness Week takes place next week and free AMD testing and information will be available at a range of participating local opticians and eye doctors in Limerick.
A Novartis mobile testing unit will offer free AMD testing at Limerick City Library in The Granary on Wednesday, September 21 from 10-1pm and Castletroy Golf Club from 2-6pm. All are welcome.