Well known actress Judi Dench in a still from the award winning film ‘Philomena’ based on a true story of a mother searching for her adopted son. When Dame Judi Dench announced she was no longer able to read scripts because of an eye condition, some 500,000 people in Britain understood what she was going through.
Dench suffers from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a painless condition that generally leads to the loss of central vision (directly in front of you). It doesn’t affect your peripheral vision so doesn’t cause complete blindness. Although there is no cure, it can be controlled and pioneering treatments might help some people.
The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) says AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in Britain and the NHS estimates one in every ten people over 65 has the condition to some degree. It tends to be more common in women than men and in those over 50.
Carmel Murray of C Murray Optician, 13 Antrim Road, Belfast BT15 explains the condition:
‘It is a degenerative disorder that affects a tiny part of the retina at the back of your eye called the macula,’ she says. ‘This is responsible for fine- detailed vision used for reading, watching TV and recognising people’s faces. It usually affects both eyes but the speed at which it affects each can vary. ‘
There are two types of the condition: wet and dry. Almost all patients start with dry. ‘This is simply wear and tear of the cells of the eye wall upon which the macula sits,’ she says.
‘This usually develops slowly over a number of years. The main symptom is blurring of central vision, usually first experienced as difficulty with reading in poor light.’
Carmel says one in ten of those who suffer from dry AMD will go on to develop the wet version. If untreated, this can cause more damage.
AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in older people in Ireland. The condition affects the central vision in one eye and often goes on to affect the other eye. People often only discover they have it when they have almost lost the sight in one eye.
How to minimise the onset of AMD
As with all things, prevention is better than cure. Make sure to get your vision checked frequently. Wet AMD can develop very suddenly but Carmel advises that it can be treated, if caught early enough.
Although it’s not possible to completely prevent the condition, there are ways to reduce the risk of developing AMD. Stopping smoking, controlling your blood pressure, eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, moderating your alcohol intake and wearing UV-absorbing glasses when outside for long periods may help prevent the onset of AMD.
‘We should be taking a combination of vitamins,’ advises Carmel. ‘Vitamins C and E, zinc, and the vegetable pigments lutein and zeaxanthin (found in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach) may help slow the rate of visual loss.’
If you are concerned about your own eye health or that of a loved one, why not arrange an appointment today by booking online at www.cmurrayoptician.com or simply call us at 028 90 741122.