Ireland’s Defining Moments Revealed at Launch AMD Awareness Week

‘Your Defining Moment’ campaign urges the public to take control of their eye health this year and avail of free testing for Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) – the leading cause of blindness in the over 50’s in Ireland1

  • Ireland joining the EU in 1973 (36%) and the Signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 (35%) named by the public as Ireland’s most defining moments5
  • ‘Your Defining Moment’ booklet launched today to increase awareness of AMD, with stories contributed by some of Ireland’s best loved personalities as well as winning stories submitted by the public
  • With 7,000 new cases of AMD diagnosed each year4, the public are being urged to get their eyes tested during AMD Awareness Week (14th – 20th September)
  • 71% of over 50’s admit they get their eyes tested less than once a year5
  • Free AMD eye tests will be available nationwide this week from participating eye care providers and at the Novartis mobile testing unit which will visit Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Cork (see for further details)

Defining moments can take many forms, from seemingly small decisions to life altering moments, and all were up for discussion today at the launch of AMD Awareness Week at the RHA Gallery in Dublin. To mark the eighth year of AMD awareness week, a specially created booklet, ‘Your Defining Moment was launched to encourage those most at risk of developing AMD to avail of a free eye test and make it their personal ‘defining moment’ this year.

AMD Week is a “Healthy Ireland” (Department of Health) supported initiative. The campaign, supported by Fighting Blindness, NCBI – the national sight loss organisation, the Irish College of Ophthalmologists, the Association of Optometrists Ireland and Novartis, is offering those over 50 the chance to take control of their eye health by availing of free testing for AMD at participating eye care providers nationwide and at the Novartis AMD mobile testing unit, which will visit Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Waterford and Cork this week.

As a part of the campaign, the Irish public were asked to name Ireland’s most positive defining moments in history – with Ireland joining the EU (36%) and the Signing of the Good Friday Agreement (35%) chosen as the stand out moments5. When asked about a personal defining moment, the majority of women (44%) surveyed said it was the moment they became a mother; however, 42% of men surveyed showed their romantic side by naming the day they got married as the moment that changed their life for the better.5

People over 50 were also surveyed about their eye health, with 71% admitting that they get their eyes tested less than once a year5.  AMD is the leading cause of blindness in the over 50’s age group1, with 7,000 new cases diagnosed each year4. Almost 100,000 people in Ireland have AMD1-3 which can lead to the loss of  sharp, straight-ahead vision that we use for seeing fine details, reading, driving, recognising faces, or seeing street signs.

Early diagnosis is crucial and the importance of regular eye check-ups for those in the high risk age category cannot be overstated.

Dr Mark Cahill, eye surgeon and Irish College of Ophthalmologists spokesperson, said, AMD is one of the most common causes of sight loss in older adults in Ireland. However its outcome has been greatly improved with modern treatment.  These treatments can stabilise the disease in 90% of cases and greatly improve vision in 30-40% of people with AMD.  The early detection of wet AMD by an eye doctor and prompt treatment is crucial to prevent sight loss.

“It is a privilege to be able to help people regain their sight but the threat of sight loss conditions as we age is something we need people to be more aware of.  Regular eye examinations with an eye doctor are recommended in order to catch signs of the disease early, especially if there is a family history of the condition. This should be done every two years for the over 50s and annually if there is any hint of AMD.  It is also important to remind people that simple lifestyle changes can have a big impact and help to slow the progression or onset of AMD, like giving up smoking, eating a healthy diet rich in leafy greens and exercising regularly.”

Also in attendance at today’s launch were some of the contributors to the ‘Your Defining Moment’ booklet; Deputy Mary Mitchell O’ Connor, Mary Kennedy, Evelyn Cusack and John Treacy. Each one unveiled a never-before-heard ‘defining moment’ from their life – Deputy Mitchell O’ Connor describes a small but significant question she was asked as a teacher, Mary (Kennedy) reveals her big moment was as the host of the Eurovision, Evelyn tells all about a career changing phone call, and John shares the story of the initial disappointment that led him to that all important Olympic medal. To read these stories, and the winning entries submitted by the public, please visit to download the booklet.

The booklet also showcases the impactful artwork of tactile and visual artist and disability advocate, Pádraig Naughton. Pádraig, the Executive Director of Arts & Disability Ireland, also recounts his own defining moment story which is represented by his self-portrait.

Loretto Callaghan, Managing Director, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, said, “We would like to sincerely thank everyone who contributed to this year’s booklet and AMD awareness campaign. We are also delighted to have the Department of Health’s Healthy Ireland initiative supporting AMD Week this year.

“Novartis is proud to once again support AMD Awareness Week and hope that anyone concerned about their eye health will avail of a free test for AMD this week.”

Chris White, CEO of NCBI Group, said, “For many of the people who are struggling with their vision their ‘defining moment’ is reaching out for help and the reassurance that comes with realising that they are not alone and that there is help out there – both practical and emotional – through organisations like NCBI.”

Lynda McGivney-Nolan, Optometric Advisor, Association of Optometrists Ireland, said, “AMD is now the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment in Ireland. AMD Awareness Week has, since 2008, seen thousands of people avail of free eye tests across the country, with many of our members offering free AMD testing to anyone over 50. We hope that even more people get on board this year to ensure early diagnosis and swift access to treatment.”

Avril Daly, CEO of Fighting Blindness, added, “Being diagnosed with AMD is a defining moment in anyone’s life but it is important for people to know that there is support and treatment available and early diagnosis is vital. As well as age, other risk factors for AMD to be aware of include a family history of AMD, smoking, a poor diet or being overweight. Research has shown that 70-80% of blindness in Ireland is preventable so please don’t put off that appointment – book your eye test today or come along to one of the mobile testing unit in your area.”

To find out more about AMD, to download the ‘Your Defining Moment’ booklet, and to see the full list of where free testing is available this week, please visit



  1. Akuffo KO, Nolan J, Stack J, Moran R, Feeney J, Kenny RA, Peto T, Dooley C, O’Halloran AM, Cronin H, and Beatty S. Prevalence of age-related macular degeneration in the Republic of Ireland. British Journal of Ophthalmology. 2015. ( accessed: 14/07/2015)
  2. Central Statistics Office: StatBank – CD202: Population by Age Last Birthday, At Each Year of Age, Sex and CensusYear ( accessed: 06/07/2015)
  3. Central Statistics Office: StatBank – PEA01: Population Estimates (Persons in April) by Age Group, Sex and Year ( accessed: 06/07/2015)
  4. The Cost of Sight Loss Report NCBI 2012
  5. AMD Awareness Research Results, Empathy Research Omnibus Study, September 2015

The Novartis AMD mobile testing unit will visit the following locations during AMD Awareness Week:

Dublin on Tuesday, September 15:

  • County Library Tallaght, Library Square, Tallaght, from 10am – 1pm
  • Dún Laoghaire Lexicon Library, from 3.30pm – 6pm

Galway on Wednesday, September 16:

  • Ballybane Library, Castlepark Road, Ballybane, Galway from 10am – 1pm
  • Galway Golf Club, Blackrock, Salthill, Galway from 2pm – 6pm

Limerick on Thursday, September 17:

  • Limerick City Library, The Granary, Michael Street, Limerick from 10am – 1pm
  • Castletroy Golf Club, Golf Links Road, Castletroy, Limerick from 2pm – 6pm

Waterford on Friday, September 18:

  • Pedestrian area, Broad Street, Waterford City from 10am – 1pm
  • Waterford Golf Club, Newrath, Waterford from 2pm – 6pm

Cork on Saturday, September 19:

  • Cork City Library, 57-61 Grand Parade, Cork from 10am – 1pm
  • Cork Golf Club, Little Island from 2pm to 5pm

Many optometrists around the country are also providing free testing throughout the week; you will find the full list here.

The ICO, AOI, NCBI and Fighting Blindness are all members of the National Vision Coalition, an alliance of healthcare professionals, those working in the sight loss community, and service users representing the interests of the vision impaired and blind community.

About Fighting Blindness:

Fighting Blindness is an Irish patient-led charity funding and enabling world-leading research into treatments and cures for blindness. It provides a professional counselling service to support people affected by sight loss. Through education and advocacy Fighting Blindness works to empower everyone in Ireland living with severe vision impairment. Fighting Blindness is involved with rare, genetic, age-related and degenerative conditions and represents the 224,000 adults and children in Ireland who are affected by severe vision impairment. Please call 01 6789 004 or visit for more information.

About NCBI:

NCBI is the leading charity working for the rising number of people affected by sight loss in Ireland. We provide practical and emotional support to help people with sight loss face their futures with confidence.

For more information visit

About the Irish College of Ophthalmologists:

The Irish College of Ophthalmologists (ICO) is the professional and training body for eye doctors and the expert body on medical eye care in Ireland.

The ICO is dedicated to promoting excellence in eye care through the education of its members, trainees and the public. Our central mission is to reduce the number of annual cases of preventable blindness affecting people in Ireland and to maintain standards of excellence in eye health care delivery.  We do this by educating eye doctors in training, providing on-going education for eye doctors in practice, giving accurate medical advice to the public and policy guidance for the government.

The ICO places a priority on raising the public’s awareness of eye health and the significance of eye health as an indicator of general health and wellbeing. For further information on eye health, visit

About The Association of Optometrists Ireland:

The Association of Optometrists Ireland is the professional representative body for the vast majority of practising optometrists in the country. Formerly known as ophthalmic opticians and commonly referred to as opticians, the official title in Irish law is now optometrist. The Association, in conjunction with the Opticians Board,  which is the statutory regulatory authority, provides a supervisory and ethical environment for all members. The purpose of this is to ensure the highest possible standards in provision of clinical and dispensing services to the public. Subscription to the Association’s Code of Ethics and Practice is mandatory for all members.

About Healthy Ireland

Healthy Ireland is the national framework for improved health and wellbeing in Ireland.  Healthy Ireland’s vision is that every person in Ireland can enjoy physical and mental health and wellbeing totheir full potential, where wellbeing is valued and supported at every level of society and is everyone’s responsibility.   This understanding calls for a partnership approach in all of the actions set out in the Framework. Healthy Ireland is designed to harness the energy, creativity and expertise of everyone whose work promotes health and wellbeing, and encourages all sectors of society to get involved in making Ireland a healthier place to live, work and play.