Don’t accept age-related vision loss

FANS of James Bond will be familiar with actress Judi Dench, who played the M16 chief until 2012. 

Don’t accept age-related vision loss

Her character, M, was sharp-eyed. By contrast, Judi, 80, has been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in the over-50s in Ireland.

There are more than 60,000 Irish people with the condition and 7,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.

As our population ages, AMD will become more of a health concern. But we don’t have to accept it as a natural part of ageing. There are steps we can take to reduce our risk.

The first is learning about AMD. AMD affects the macula, a tiny area of the retina that is responsible for central vision and which allows us to see detail.

There are two forms of the condition: dry AMD and wet AMD.

The dry form is the more common. Its symptoms often include blurred vision and faded colours.

There is no treatment for dry AMD, but the deterioration is gradual and nutritional supplementation can slow its progress.

Wet AMD is less common, but it causes more rapid loss of vision. Abnormal blood vessels grow into the macula, causing problems as they do so.

People can notice a change in their vision overnight, with images becoming distorted and straight lines appearing wavy.

If you experience any of these symptoms, if you have difficulty doing fine, detailed work, or if you notice dark patches or empty spaces in your field of vision, you may be developing AMD.

It can start in one or both eyes and early action is vital. Otherwise, a significant loss in vision can occur within three to six months.

The second step in reducing our risk of developing AMD is quitting smoking. Smokers are twice as likely to develop the condition as non-smokers.

Genes are another risk factor. There appears to be a history of AMD in certain families, so if close relatives have suffered sight loss, get your eyes checked more regularly.

Diet is important, too. Make sure you eat lots of green, leafy vegetables, like kale, and those that contain lutein, such as spinach, broccoli, peas, sweetcorn and lettuce.

Recent research has shown that adding vitamin C and E, beta carotene, copper and zinc supplements to the diet can also help reduce the risk of developing AMD. So can maintaining a healthy weight, reducing blood pressure and protecting the eyes from UV and blue light.

No matter how many precautions you take, it’s important that you get your eyes checked regularly if you’re aged over 50.

The Association of Optometrists Ireland recommends that you get them checked at least once every two years.

This will ensure that any problems are diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

AMD will be spotted in time and you’ll be able to modify your lifestyle to slow its progress.

Just like Judi Dench, you’ll receive any help and support you need to get on with your life as best you can.

For help and advice, speak to your GP or eye care professional or visit www.amd.ie

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