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Dame Judi Dench has been in the spotlight again recently thanks to her well-deserved Oscar nomination.
However thousands of people in the UK will already be familiar with her as a fellow sufferer of Age-related Macular Degeneration, or AMD. She first announced that her eyesight was deteriorating in 2012, explaining that she could no longer read scripts or recognise people’s faces.
AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK, affecting an estimated 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 to some degree. It causes a gradual, painless loss of central detailed vision, which affects a person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks such as reading, driving or watching TV. Currently there is no cure for AMD, but depending on the type and severity, treatment in the form of injections can slow the progress of the condition (other treatments are currently in the research or trial stages). It is not possible to entirely prevent AMD either, however it is certainly possible to reduce your risk of developing the condition. Some risk factors, like age and family history are beyond our control, but there are a number of things we can change.
Giving up smoking can significantly reduce your risk, with smokers 3 times more likely to develop AMD. Diet is also important. Obesity and a diet high in hydrogenated or saturated fats can increase your risk, as can a lack of fruit and vegetables. Raised blood pressure is another risk factor
Antioxidants present in some fruit and vegetables (and destroyed by alcohol!) can protect the tissues from the actions of free radicals. The Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2) formed the basis of current advice that a combination of antioxidant vitamins, minerals and xanthophylls can slow the progression of the condition (full details can be found on The Macular Society website: http://www.maculasociety.org/).
Studies have shown that exposure to UV light also causes damage to the macular cells, and therefore UV protection is vital, at all times of the year.