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Campaign seeks to fight eye disease among seniors

Macular degeneration is a threat that Chinese society needs to pay more attention to, a key health association has said. Also known as age-related macular degeneration, the condition occurs due to damage to the macula of the retina, and often results in blurred or loss of central vision in one or both eyes. The disease typically occurs in people older than 45, while genetic factors and an unhealthy lifestyle, including smoking, also play a role. Recently, the China Association of Health Promotion and Education, an association affiliated to the National Family Planning and Health Commission, kicked off a program in Beijing to raise public awareness about macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is the third leading cause of vision loss among seniors globally, and in China there are about 32 million seniorspeople older than 60suffering from the condition, the association said. It is also the leading cause of seniors' vision loss in China, and in people older than 50 the condition is the second leading cause of irreversible blindness, according to the association.

The association predicts that by 2020, the prevalence of the disease will rise by 50 percent over current levels. As Chinese society grows increasingly gray, and more seniors use electronic products such cellphones and computers, eye health problems, especially macular degeneration, will become more threatening, and it will also become increasingly difficult to keep seniors away from factors that may harm their eyes, said Wei Wenbin, the director of ophthalmology at Beijing Tongren Hospital. Meanwhile, the aim of the program is to raise public awareness about the disease and improve the ability of medical staff to diagnose and treat it so that early detection and intervention can ensure better outcomes for patients, said Tao Maoxuan, the deputy director of the association. The association plans to achieve its goal through health education, including lectures by medical experts and distribution of information brochures. The program is part of China's plan to reduce eye health problems among the elderly, said Wang Ningli, the vice-president with Tongren Hospital. Since the start of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015), China has established a basic blindness prevention and management system that involves the governmentfrom the national to the city leveland about 94 percent of hospitals in the counties now provide eye care, he added. Chengdu-based Kanghong Pharmaceutical, a Chinese pharmaceutical company, sponsored the program.

Reprinted from China Daily (By Liu Zhihua)


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