Do you have regular eye checks? How often?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you eat plenty of vegetables, especially the green ones?
- Do you know how many people are blind in the UK?
- Do you have parents or grandparents who have AMD?
- Do you know what your risk is of getting AMD or any other visual impairment?
AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration.) is becoming more common in the 21st Century because people are living longer.
Macular Degeneration as it is commonly known is the breaking down of the macula which is the part of the retina at the back of the eye that provides sharp central vision.
People with this condition can suffer increasingly blurred vision which leads to problems with reading printed or written text, colour, (particularly contrast) and difficulty recognising people’s faces. If you only have AMD and nothing else wrong with your eyes, you will not go completely blind. But you will lose your central vision.
There are other conditions with the eyes such as cataracts, glaucoma and Diabetic retinopathy. I recently heard a story about a chap who went for an eye test, and this was how he found out that he had Type 2 Diabetes. For an optometrist, our eyes are like reading a book. But as a friend of mine pointed out to me just today, you do need to be assertive and make sure that you ask the right questions, and what you can do about any conditions that they come across.
Also only today I heard of someone who had been scared by what the optometrist had said. That there is no cure for AMD and he was in the very early stages of the condition.
It did frighten me when the optometrist told me that I was in the early stages, but I put that fear into action by finding out what was available to help me. So don’t be put off by what they tell you, especially when they say there is no cure and there is nothing that can be done. They may be right that there is no cure, at least at the moment, but there is plenty that can be done to make life easier. I am afraid that many consultants and eye specialists have a habit of doing that, but they fail to point out that there is support available.
If you do find out that you have the early stages of AMD, you can take sensible precautions to take care of your eyes and help to slow up the process.
By wearing glasses or goggles and a hat to keep the sunlight out of your eyes. By learning what aids are available so that you stand a good chance of managing the condition. And by having regular eye checks.
So, the earlier you find out, the better. You may not notice anything wrong in your day to day life, except perhaps you may find that reading is blurred even with your reading glasses on. I found out from a regular eye check.
And don’t think that it is an old person condition, some people develop AMD in their twenties or thirties. I know someone who had junior onset AMD at the age of eight.
As a matter of interest here are some interesting facts for the UK. (You can google statistics or facts for your part of the world if you are not in the UK)
- In the UK around 600,000 people currently have vision impairment caused by AMD, and around 70,000 new cases are diagnosed every year. (nearly 200 per day)
- Over two million people in the UK live with sight loss.
- Total sight loss in one eye is not counted against the legality of driving.
- People with sight loss in one eye are not considered partially sighted.
- Total sight loss is rare, only about 4% of people with vision impairment are totally blind.
- Sight loss, in general, affects people of all ages but especially older people. 1 in 5 aged 75 and 1 in 2 aged 90. (This is in degrees of sight loss, from mild to being registered blind or partially sighted.
- In the UK there are only 5000 guide dogs.
- Every day more than 75 new people are formally registered blind or partially sighted.
- 75% of blind and partially sighted people of working age are registered unemployed.
There are plenty more statistics that you can find, and some of them are quite revealing. Many people, including myself for many years before I had this condition, get confused when observing people with vision loss. They cannot understand why the person can see some things and not others.
I cannot go into the details here, but I have written some of what I experience as an example here;
As far as the legality of driving is concerned, it is a minefield. The law may say that you are safe to drive with a vision impairment, in fact, some people with an impairment may be able to see the required reading of the number plate. But the insurance company’s may have something else to say about it.
For example, I was told twelve years ago that I could drive under the law. I have other things wrong with my eyes as well, and one of them is double vision when my eyes are tired. I was issued by the Eye Infirmary with a pair of glasses with one lens blacked out (don’t ask about the technicalities please!) and told that I could drive while wearing them. If I were in an accident, I would be covered by the insurance as long as I was wearing them. If I were not wearing them, then I would be liable.
No-one seemed to take into account that wearing them was a hazard for me because I could not see properly with them on. So I had to make a choice not to drive at all. Driving for me, just as it is for millions of people, was freedom and giving it up was painful. But not as much as if I had taken the risk and failed to drive safely.
The main purpose of this article is to point out how important it is to look after your eyes. The main cause of AMD is not known. But the contributing factors are genetic, diet and smoking.
It is a myth that we can get AMD from bad light or too much exposure to computers, etc. But UV light is a factor and another reason for protecting your eyes in the sunlight. The jury is still out on whether computer and smartphones can cause AMD, but there is evidence surfacing that you can suffer what is known as Digital Eye Strain. Eye strain, however, is not a contributing factor to AMD.
Looking at my earlier reference to contributing factors, let’s look at the genetic factor more closely. The genetic factor is only an increased risk. It is not a guarantee that you will get it. But, if you have someone in your family, particularly your parents, with MD, then you need to be extra vigilant with eye care. Get plenty of green leafy vegetables which contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are two antioxidants stored in the macula.
See more about this here:
As for the other two, diet and smoking; just give up smoking, and eat clean as well as including the green vegetables.
Have Regular Eye Checks
And last but certainly not least. GET YOUR EYES CHECKED REGULARLY. At least every two years. Don’t take your eyesight for granted.
One of the most difficult things for me as well as the other 600,000 people in the UK to come to terms with, is that except a miracle, my eyes are not going to get better than they are now, and they are going to get worse over time.
At the moment, because I have developed wet AMD, I am waiting for my eyes to get worse before I can begin to have injections to make them better. Don’t ask!
The only things that I can do are; to make sure that I get the nutrients I need; to shield my eyes from the sun; to eat clean and to take the supplements that I take, to try and slow up the progress.
It is important to stay positive and just let AMD be part of my life and not rule it! But that will take another article, and again let me refer you to the link for my other blogs on AMD.
The other important issue for people with AMD is to get support. You can get it with the Macular Society. Tel 01264 350 551
I belong to the Macular Society, and there are groups that meet up all over the country in the UK.
And in the UK there is a support group to be found on Facebook here:
And in the US:
There are other support groups on Facebook.
See also Macular Degeneration and Diet