Health professionals are calling for increased funding for a disease that affects one in seven Australians, but continues to receive little attention.
Macular Degeneration, which attacks the central part of the retina, is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia.
Patients suffer loss of central vision and are often unable to read, drive, recognise faces and see colours clearly.
With incidences increasing with age, the Macular Degeneration Foundation’s chief executive Julie Heraghty said research into treatment and prevention was vital.
"With an ageing Australia, very soon everyone will know someone that is at risk of blindness from this disease," Heraghty said.
But despite the statistics, Heraghty said it remained one of the least-publicised health problems.
"We haven't had the amount of money that other, better-known diseases have," she said.
Patients with macular degeneration experience the same loss of quality of life as people with cancer and cardiovascular illness, Heraghty said.
"You have an increase risk of falls, you have higher depression rates and we see early admission to nursing homes and social isolation."
Leading businesswoman and journalist Ita Buttrose said the disease could be "devastating".
Buttrose became the patron of the foundation in 2005 after witnessing her father, aunty and uncle suffer from the disease.
"In my father's case he was a journalist and an author, and he could no longer read the newspaper," Buttrose said.
"That was a devastating blow. It changed his life dramatically."
Raising awareness and increasing research into the disease was vital in saving someone's eyesight, Buttrose said.
"If you have it in your family, you have a 50 per cent risk of getting it," she said.
"My father's younger sibling, who is 87, also has macular degeneration but I was able to help get him to a specialist and we have saved his vision."
At a gala fundraising dinner on Friday evening, The Macular Degeneration Foundation announced it hopes to raise $10 million over the next 10 years to help prevent future economic strain on the health system.
The foundation will kick-start the research program with a $1.5 million injection, and is calling on the public to help it reach its target.
To help prevent or slow macular degeneration, people should have their eyes regularly tested, should exercise, eat fish, fruit and dark leafy vegetables and avoid smoking.
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