We all know that smoking is a major risk factor for many diseases including heart and blood vessel disease, osteoporosis and various cancers.macular degeneration pharmacy esperance

Perhaps less well known is the fact that smoking causes blindness. Smokers and people who have smoked are three times more likely to develop macular degeneration.

The potentially serious adverse effects of smoking on our eyesight and the possible benefits of diet and exercise are just some of the messages to come from Macular Degeneration Awareness Week (26 May to 1 June).

Macular degeneration (MD) – sometimes known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) because of its high prevalence in older people – is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in Australia and other Western countries.

It is the name given to a group of diseases of the retina which cause progressive, painless loss of central vision. Thus the ability to see fine detail, drive, read and recognise faces is slowly but surely lost.

Presently there is no cure for AMD; and treatments to delay or stop its progression have met with limited success. As AMD is so common (one in seven people over the age of 50 is affected) there is increasing interest in identifying risk factors which, when modified, may reduce the chance of getting AMD, or stop the condition becoming worse when it does occur.

A family history of macular degeneration gives us a 50% chance of developing the disease. We can’t do too much to change our parents, so a regular and frequent check up by the eye specialist is important for early diagnosis.

Nevertheless, something we can address is a commitment to become a non-smoker. Many studies have clearly demonstrated the link between smoking and AMD.

There is ongoing debate about the relationship between AMD and obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels; but research strongly suggest that diet is significant.

There’s probably still some doubt as to whether eating your crusts makes your hair grow curly. But there’s no doubt the advice we got from our mums and grandmums with respect to vegetables was pretty accurate.

In particular the likelihood is that the pigments beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin found in carrots, pumpkin, corn and some green leafy vegetables are beneficial. Other antioxidants of interest include vitamins A and E and the trace elements zinc and selenium.

Proprietary preparations containing these substances are now available, but the use of anti-oxidants in high doses is not without risk. Beta-carotene has been found to increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers; and vitamin E has been associated with an increased risk of heart failure in people with diabetes or disease affecting circulation. Check with your pharmacist before you choose a specific product.

On the other hand, there is evidence that fish oil (containing so-called omega-3 fatty acids) might provide protection against AMD. So, the Macular Degeneration Foundation advises eating fish two or three times a week, eating dark-green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit, eating a handful of nuts once a week and protecting your eyes from sunlight exposure; and of course, if you’re a smoker, then quit! You can get more good advice from the Foundation at www.mdfoundation.com.au And you can access a copy of their publication Slips, Trips and Falls, and how to avoid them – a guide for people with low vision.

Also, pharmacies around Australia providing the Pharmaceutical Society’s Self Care health information have a fact card titled Vision Impairment. The card gives details about not only AMD but also glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and refractive error.

To locate the Self Care pharmacy nearest you, log on to the Pharmaceutical Society (PSA) website at www.psa.org.au and click on “use the self care pharmacy finder”. Or phone PSA on 1300 369 772

Australia has more people with asthma than just about anywhere else in the world. About 10% of the Australian population (more than 2 million people) have asthma.


Everyone knows someone – a friend or family member – with asthma.

Asthma is a potentially very serious condition likely to cause at least discomfort, quite possibly severe disability and perhaps even death. So, learning “asthma first aid” is a simple skill that could save someone’s life

In Australia, the number of deaths from asthma each year declined from about 1,000 some 20 years ago to less than 300 in 2005, but in the past few years it has been increasing again to more than 400.

During the winter, colds and flu are major causes of cough and congestion, but these are not the only conditions which affect our ability to breathe freely.

A variety of factors can trigger the inflammation which causes the symptoms of asthma – wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing, particularly at night or in the early morning. These trigger factors include allergies, viral infections and inhaled pollutants such as tobacco smoke, dust and dust mites. Cold air exposure and exercise can trigger asthma, as can reflux disease and certain medicines in people with super-sensitive airways. Even laughing (said to be the best medicine!!), especially in children, has been shown to trigger asthma.

Identification and avoidance of trigger factors goes a long way towards asthma control. But most people with asthma will need preventer and reliever medicines as well.

What medicine is best and how often it should be used depends on whether the asthma is classified as intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent or severe persistent.

We don’t yet have all the answers as to the exact underlying cause of asthma – or why some people have airways more naturally sensitive – nor do we have the perfect single treatment.

Most people who live with asthma think they are in control of their condition, but the reality is very different. According to Asthma Australia up to 90% of people with asthma do not use their inhalers correctly and only around 20% have a written Asthma Action Plan.

As well, many people with asthma are unaware of asthma first aid. These procedures are essential to know, not only for everyone with asthma, but also if you have someone with asthma in your family or you’re caring for someone with asthma. And it’s especially important for teachers to know about asthma first aid. The State Asthma Foundations have available Asthma Emergency Kits which include basic equipment and instructions for use to assist someone having an asthma attack; and the Foundations can provide education and training on the use of the kits. Check out the website www.asthmaaustralia.org.au for more details; and look for the latest edition of Asthma Update.

Also, the Pharmaceutical Society in Australia (PSA) has recently revised the Asthma and Asthma Medicines fact cards. These cards provide the latest information on how asthma can be well controlled so that people with asthma can live a normal and active life, free of symptoms.

The cards are available from all pharmacies in Australia that provide the PSA Self Care health information. Phone 1300 369 772 for the nearest location; or alternatively log onto www.psa.org.au and click on “Self Care” then “Find a Self Care Pharmacy”.

By being prepared with good asthma management strategies we should all breathe a little more easily.

War stories

November 20, 2013

The spectacular international success of the stage show War Horse, based on the 1982 children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo, has raised awareness of the extent of the  role of horses in  World War I. Records indicate that more than a million horses were sent to the battlefields from the Britain; of this number just 65,000 returned. […]

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Mosquitoes – more than a minor inconvenience

November 19, 2013

Over centuries a tiny insect has changed the course of history and in the process killed more people than all wars put together. That insect is the so-called Anopheles mosquito which carries the malaria parasite. And 25 April is World Malaria Day. Whilst it’s difficult to determine the exact number of annual worldwide deaths from malaria […]

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Relieving the pressure of heart disease

November 18, 2013

Of course, having some blood pressure is vitally important. It’s what keeps those life- sustaining, oxygenated red blood cells circulating around our body. But too much blood pressure can result in a catastrophic outcome – just like a pressure cooker on high heat without an escape valve. Blood pressure is designated by two readings. The […]

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Some South American help to manage arthritis

March 15, 2013

Llamas are domesticated animals native to the Americas and from the same family as camels and alpacas. Unlike alpacas, bred mostly for their fibre, lamas are more like camels in as much as they are widely used as pack animals. Now, it seems llamas may be able to help unlock the key to the treatment […]

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Gut instincts

March 14, 2013

An article in New Scientist magazine last year identified the intestinal tract as pretty much having a mind of its own. It suggested the so-called enteric nervous system, embedded in the wall of our gut, has the ability not only to control digestion but also to play an important role in our mental and physical wellbeing. No […]

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Keeping your medicines safe and secure

March 13, 2013

The gentle temperate weather conditions that usually prevail around Australia during spring are just a dim distant memory. The summer extremes this year have provided both widespread fires and floods, often with disastrous results. One of the unfortunate side effects of these natural disasters is that many people are left without essential medicines; and emergency […]

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Heading off head lice

February 10, 2013

It’s normally considered that cockroaches and crocodiles are the great survivors from the dim distant past; but it appears even the humble head louse has been around for over 100,000 years. As irritating as head lice are, they are essentially harmless and there are even suggestions that they may be beneficial in stimulating some natural […]

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Cold sores – not so cool

February 9, 2013

Around the time of Valentine’s Day, our thoughts sometimes turn to romance; not quite so likely, perhaps, if you’re affected with a cold sore. To most people cold sores might seem to be a comparatively trivial condition; but if you are one of the thousands of people who suffer with cold sores you no doubt […]

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