Survey results released this week by the AMD Alliance, an international coalition of eye care charities and organisations, revealed that GPs feel 'left in the dark' when it comes to recognising and treating Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the UK.
Despite its high prevalence, with over 380,000 sufferers in the UK, the AMD Alliance survey of GPs highlights the continued low awareness of the debilitating condition. The results were released in conjunction with the launch of 'Retina Week'.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) affects the eye's macula and results in the loss of central vision - the vision that allows activities that require focused, straight-ahead vision such as driving and reading.
While treatment options for AMD sufferers remain limited, a growing body of research suggests that nutrition plays a key role in the prevention of AMD, and that certain antioxidants and carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, may help lower the risk of developing the disease and slow its progression.
Lutein is the predominant carotenoid found in dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach and kale and it helps protect eyes by depositing in the macula where it filters out harmful blue light, stopping it from reaching and damaging the sensitive back tissue of the retina.
Since the human body is unable to manufacture lutein, it is essential to eat a diet rich in natural lutein sources to ensure that the levels in the body are maintained at an adequate level. In the western world the average lutein intake is just 2 mg per day, just one third of the recommended 6 mg per day recommended by nutritionists.
With an ageing demographic, (15.8 per cent of the UK's population is expected to be aged 60-74 by 20151), the social and economical impact of AMD promises to be great if measures are not taken to improve public and professional awareness, according to the http://www.luteininfo.com/Lutein Information Bureau, an organisation providing information to the public and healthcare professionals.
Steve Winyard, head of Public Policy at RNIB and secretary of the AMD Alliance International, said: "AMD is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK, so it is vital that people become more aware of AMD and how to reduce the risks of getting it. GPs are especially important - they need to be able to advise their patients about AMD and about the vital support services that people with AMD need. "
The Lutein Information Bureau is supporting the AMD's awareness campaign with information packs sent to GPs.