When Lorraine Morgan first heard she would have to have injections in her eye to save her sight, it just about sent her "to the moon".

But now the Hikurangi 92-year-old says the treatment was no big deal and is encouraging other people who notice changes in their eyes not to "dilly dally".

Mrs Morgan spoke out ahead of Macular Degeneration Awareness Week, the most common cause of blindness in New Zealand, affecting about one in seven people over 50. Macular degeneration (MD) can quickly lead to blindness - even within weeks of the first symptoms - if it is left untreated.

Mrs Morgan said the first signs for her were a "big black blob" over her right eye, which she noticed on waking up one morning.


"The blob got bigger. After a week I thought, 'something's wrong' so I went to the optician and he sent me to a specialist who said I had macular haemorrhage."

Mrs Morgan was advised she would need to have a series of injections over several months to halt her vision loss.

"It was [scary] but honestly it doesn't hurt so if you have to have it don't worry ... It's just the thought of it," she said.

The black blob dissipated and lines that had started to become blurry straightened. Mrs Morgan still has some sight in her right eye, though things appear "mistier" than they once were. "All I can say is, get it early and do as you're told."

Macular Degeneration New Zealand chairperson Dianne Sharp said the low awareness of the disease was a "tragedy".

"Far too many people are going blind because they don't know that a simple test can identify early changes and save their sight," Dr Sharp said.

Methods for detecting MD included taking an Amsler Grid test regularly, a special grid pattern with a dot in the middle, though the test could be done using virtually any grid. If the lines appear distorted or bent, then the viewer needed to see an optometrist. While treatment did not cure the condition, it could stabilise vision and help prevent further sight loss.

The macula is the very centre of the retina at the back of your eye and was responsible for detailed central vision and most colour vision. A healthy macula lets a person read, recognise faces, drive a car, see colours clearly and handle any activity that requires fine vision. In MD, abnormal blood vessels in the retina leak, bleed and form a scar causing vision loss and blindness. Common symptoms include distortion (straight lines appearing wavy), difficulty reading and distinguishing faces, and dark patches or empty space in the centre of vision.

MD awareness week runs from May 23 to 29. Call 0800 622 852 for information and advice.