Age-related macular degeneration is a slowly-progressing eye disease, which according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics accounts for 50% of legal blindness in Australia.
The eye disease causes no pain, and in its early stages, may be detected before symptoms occur via an eye examination.
Typically, one of the first symptoms is difficulty seeing fine detail in the centre of your vision and over time, this area may increase in size. In some cases, it may cause lines or objects to appear distorted or wavy.
Although there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are treatment options that can slow down its progression and help manage associated complications, depending on the stage and type of the disease (wet, dry, and other forms). The earlier that the disease is detected, the more vision you are likely to retain.
Seize the day like Judi Dench
In 2012, actress Dame Judi Dench shared her wisdom of living with macular degeneration.
The 82-year-old Oscar-winning matriarch said she inherited the condition from her mother.
People with a direct family history have a 50% chance of developing the disease, with one in seven Australians over the age of 50 affected by macular degeneration and the incidence increases with age.
Dame Judi revealed she had both types of macular degeneration – dry in one eye and wet in the other.
Wet MD is usually characterised by a rapid and severe loss of central vision while dry MD is a slower form of the disease, causing gradual loss of vision.
Soon after the news of her macular degeneration diagnosis became public, Dame Judi stated: “In response to the numerous articles in the media concerning my eye condition – macular degeneration – I do not wish for this to be overblown.”
“This condition is something that thousands and thousands of people all over the world are having to contend with, and it’s something that I have learnt to cope with and adapt to.”
In her interviews Dame Judi said the treatment she received helped to ‘arrest’ the condition. However, there is currently no cure for either type of AMD, which is why support and visual aids are also invaluable for sufferers to help manage their condition.
Dench said she employed someone to read her scripts to her and has no plans to retire.
She was even recently spotted with a new tattoo on her wrist which said fittingly: ‘Carpe Diem’, or ‘Seize the day’.
See an optometrist
It is estimated 800,000 Australians have some form of macular degeneration. With the baby boomer population ageing, this number is expected to triple in the next 25 years.
Optometry Australia’s resident optometrist Luke Arundel warned of the danger of older people avoiding eye tests because they think nothing can be done to help their failing vision.
“Some older people might think seeing an optometrist is like closing the gate once the horse has bolted. This is not true. Older Australians shouldn’t delay seeking help.
“We may not be able to cure their disease but there are things we can do to slow down its progression.
“Your optometrist can also help you organise a home assessment in order to make things safer around the home and prescribe visual aids or low vision devices to help preserve your lifestyle”.
Make Judi Dench do a happy dance and find an optometrist in your local area here.