If you've been diagnosed with macular degeneration, you're not alone. Legendary British actor Dame Judi Dench has had macular degeneration for at least 10 years, and has recently acknowledged that it has begun to affect her quality of life.
The eight-time Academy Award nominee says she's hopeful that her advanced macular degeneration won't force her to retire after nearly 70 years of acting, but notes that she can no longer read or write on her own, and has difficulty navigating her surroundings while on set.
With such a high-profile case of macular degeneration in the news, our Harlan eye care clinic has recently received a lot of questions about this disease. What is it, what are its symptoms, and how can it be prevented? Learn more below.
What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is an eye disease that involves the deterioration of the macula, a small part in the center of the retina that's responsible for detailed central vision.
Though it can affect people of any age, macular degeneration is most commonly diagnosed in people at least 50-60 years old. Over time, macular degeneration causes a significant loss of central vision. As in the case of Dame Judi Dench, eventually this can have a serious impact on one's ability to perform simple tasks such as reading and writing. It can also make watching TV, driving, or cooking a real challenge.
There Are Two Forms of Macular Degeneration: Dry and Wet
Dry macular degeneration is the more common and mild form, occurring when the macula begins to thin. Symptoms of dry macular degeneration include poor clarity when trying to read, colors seeming less vibrant, and even difficulty with recognizing faces.
Less common, but more severe in the short-term, wet macular degeneration occurs when weakened or abnormal blood vessels begin leaking blood or other fluids onto the macula, damaging it. People who have wet macular degeneration may experience symptoms that are similar to advanced dry macular degeneration, but with a more rapid deterioration. This condition requires immediate medical attention, as it can cause irreversible blindness in the affected eye in a relatively short period of time.
Possible Causes and Prevention
Although it's not conclusively known what exactly causes macular degeneration, it has been linked to age, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, and having a family history of macular degeneration.
Our Harlan eye care team recommends maintaining a healthy weight, eating plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, and quitting smoking as a way of reducing your chances of developing macular degeneration.
Because macular degeneration can be treated during the early stages before symptoms develop, responsible prevention also includes ensuring you come in for a comprehensive eye exam at least once per year, so that your eye doctor can check for any signs of developing macular degeneration. If we find some indication of an issue, our friendly and professional team will put together an effective treatment plan just for you.
Want to know more about macular degeneration and how we can help you avoid or treat it? Contact our Harlan eye doctors or give us a call at 712-430-1412.
Disclaimer: featured image of this article is not a picture of the actor in the title