Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the main causes of sight loss in older adults. This February, to mark AMD Awareness Month, we’re sharing some important information about the condition, which affects over 600,000 people in the UK.
AMD is an eye disease that affects the macula, the part of the eye responsible for central vision. It’s a condition that gets progressively worse over time, and it makes everyday activities like reading, driving, watching television, and recognising faces more difficult. People with AMD may experience blurred vision and notice a dark or empty space in the centre of their vision, and straight lines can start to look wavy or bent. In some people, AMD can also cause visual hallucinations as their eyes struggle to adapt to changes in their vision.
There are two types of AMD:
Early detection is key in managing AMD. Regular eye exams with your optometrist are crucial in catching the condition early, before significant damage has been done to the macula, so if you’ve noticed any of the symptoms mentioned above, please visit your optician as soon as possible.
Risk factors for AMD include age (it is most common in people aged 65+, but can develop earlier), smoking, a family history of the condition, and a diet high in saturated fats. Other factors that can contribute to the development of AMD include high blood pressure, obesity, and exposure to UV radiation.
There is currently no available treatment for dry AMD, but there are two treatment options that can help to slow down the progression of wet AMD:
There are ongoing research studies and clinical trials to identify whether specific genes play a part in the development of AMD and, if so, whether AMD can be treated by using gene therapy, a technique that modifies a patient’s genes to treat or cure disease. Some of these trials have had positive results but there is, unfortunately, a long way to go before these ground-breaking new treatments are approved and available for use on the NHS.
If you’ve been diagnosed with AMD, it’s natural to find yourself worrying about the future and how you’re going to cope with changes to your vision. AMD doesn’t cause total blindness but, over time, it can affect a significant proportion of your central vision, making it difficult for you to carry out everyday tasks. Here are some useful tips to help you keep your independence for as long as possible:
You may also find it useful to get in touch with support groups such as:
The Macular Society, who have a wide range of support services and a great support helpline.
t: 0300 3030 111
The Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB), who offer practical advice about living with sight loss and lots of useful information.
t: 0303 123 9999
SpaMedica also benefits from a team of dedicated Eye Care Liaison Officers (ECLOs), who provide practical and emotional support to people living with sight loss. Whether you’re still coming to terms with a recent diagnosis, struggling to cope with long-term vision loss and its impact on your day-to-day life, or just looking for someone to listen, we’ll support you every step of the way. We’re here to:
With your permission, we’re happy to speak to your family members, too.
Ask our Reception Team for a referral during your appointment or call 0330 058 4280 and ask to speak to our ECLO team. We’ll arrange for someone to call you back as soon as possible.
Our ECLOs are accredited by the RNIB. For more information, please visit: https://www.rnib.org.uk/your-eyes/navigating-sight-loss/eye-care-liaison-officers-eclos/
We hope this article reassures you that there are lots of resources – and support networks – available to help you live well with AMD.
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