by JENNY MONROE
Councillor Brian Bloomfield pictured with members of the Macular Disease Society celebrating their second anniversary at the Bridge Community Centre. US1112.133A0
A SIGHT loss support group in Lisburn is celebrating its second anniversary.
The Macular Disease Society (MDS) support group was set up in 2010 to provide advice, encouragement and friendship to local people affected by the condition. The Society has now got more than 230 similar groups across the UK, most of which meet on a monthly basis.
Age-related macular degeneration affects the central vision and is the most common cause of sight loss in the UK. There are many other forms of macular disease, including juvenile macular dystrophies.
Anna McMonagle from Lisburn leads the local group and has been affected by macular disease for 20 years.
She said: "I'm very pleased with how the group has gone during the past two years. We've had a steady number of people coming along who find the group helpful to them.
"Many people didn't know anything about macular disease until they were diagnosed. Being part of the group gives them the opportunity to meet others with the condition and realise they are not on their own. Some members have said they rarely go out of their homes, but they enjoy coming along to the meetings. I think the social side of the group is very important."
Geraldine Vernon, who has been attending the group since it formed, said: "It's great to meet up with other people affected sight loss. Family try to help but they don t fully understand, so it's good to be able to meet up with other people in a similar position.
Its not all doom and gloom, we have fun when we meet together. The company is great and we have a laugh."
Sylvia Gilmore was diagnosed with macular disease two months after the local group began meeting and soon started going along.
She said: "When I was diagnosed with macular disease I was given information at the hospital about the local group.
"From time to time we get talking about the challenges we are facing and often other people are up against similar things. It's great to be able to talk things through with people who know what it's like."
Michelle Dutton, MDS Group Support & Development Manager, will also be attending the event to join in the celebrations and present volunteers with awards in recognition of their hard work to make the group a success.
She said: "The group is here for anybody affected by macular disease. We want to encourage people to come along.
"It's good to be able to learn from each others experiences and get tips, the peer support is fantastic. The group can really help people increase in confidence and become more independent."
Local councillor Brian Bloomfield spoke to the group when they met on Monday from 11am — 12.30pm at The Bridge Community Centre, 30 Railway Street.
The group meets on a monthly basis on the second Monday of every month, at the same time and venue.
In addition to the regular meetings the group has been involved m activities supporting Lisburn in Focus, an initiative arranged by the RINB, Lisburn City Council, Liburn City Centre management and Guide Dogs. The scheme aims to increase accessibility in the city, make people with sight loss feel secure in their homes and train businesses and services in visual awareness.
For information, advice and support about macular disease, contact the Macular Disease Society's Helpline on 0845 2412041 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.