UNSW optometrist Dr Isabelle Jalbert has received $100,000 over two years from the Macular Disease Foundation to study factors that prevent people obtaining optimal care for the age-related disease, which is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia.
The project will use qualitative research methods such as focus groups and interviews to survey people with the condition, their carers, and optometrists and ophthalmologists to explore the views, knowledge, attitudes and practices of each of these groups.
“Lifestyle factors such as smoking and eating a diet with a high glycaemic index and low antioxidant intake can increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration,” says Dr Jalbert, of the School of Optometry and Vision Science.
“Yet the evidence suggests that practitioners do not always advice people to modify their lifestyles and patients do not always adhere to these recommendations when they are given.”
The study will identify where targeted health interventions can best be implemented.
Professor Steven Krilis of the Faculty of Medicine also received $400,000 over three years to study how environmental risk factors such as smoking and a high fat diet can alter the immune system and influence the development of macular degeneration.
The project has the potential to identify a new blood test to detect people at higher risk of progression, and to test a new antibody treatment targeted at the early stages of the disease.
In total, grants of $1.3 million under the Macular Disease Foundation Australia Research Grants Program were announced on World Sight Day, 8 October.
“The Foundation is proud to support Australian research and innovation. The grant’s recipients are at the forefront of scientific and technological advances and their research has real-world applications for this chronic disease,” said Foundation CEO, Julie Heraghty.
The macula is the light-sensitive region at the back of the eye that processes all central vision images. It is responsible for a person’s ability to drive, see colours clearly, read and recognise faces.
For more information please see the Macular Disease Foundation website.
.Dr Isabelle Jalbert