People across South Devon are being warned about the leading cause of sight loss in the UK.
As part of Macular Awareness Week (20-26 June) Specsavers Home Visits is helping to highlight the impact the disease can have on those in Torbay, Teignbridge and the South Hams.
According to the Macular Society, nearly 1.5 million people in the UK suffer from macular disease, with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) being the most common form of the disease – and a regular finding for home visits teams who visit older people on a day to day basis.
AMD is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK, affecting more than 600,000 people. It can first affect people in their 50s and 60s (although it can occur before this) and generally worsens over time.
While the exact cause is unknown, it has been linked to high blood pressure, smoking, being overweight and having a family history of AMD, with many people having it without knowing, according to Dawn Roberts, Specsavers Home Visits clinical director.
Dawn says: ‘The macula is the area of the retina that we use for seeing fine detail, AMD is the term we use for changes that can happen to the macula over time. Macular degeneration isn’t painful. You may not even notice you have the condition until you experience a loss of vision. AMD affects activities requiring detailed vision, such as driving, reading and writing. It falls into two categories, dry AMD and wet AMD.
‘This is the more common of the two conditions and it affects your ability to see fine detail. You may find it difficult to read, use your computer, watch the television or drive. However, some people may not realise the change in vision, as it happens so slowly. It is the result of a gradual deterioration of the macular cells, often over many years. Although eventually the central vision can be lost, it doesn’t cause total blindness, because the peripheral vision is unaffected by AMD
‘Wet AMD involves a sudden and sometimes dramatic decline in your central vision, usually in one eye. Typically, wet AMD develops in people who have already had dry AMD. It is very important that anyone who has unusual symptoms, such as straight lines appearing to be wavy or blurring of the central vision, contacts their opticians as soon as possible.’
Dry AMD is caused by the gradual break down of light-sensitive cells in the macula (the central area of the retina at the back of the eye) over several years. Wet AMD is caused by the growth of blood vessels underneath the macula, which can leak or cause scarring. It is not known why this is, but it tends to happen as people get older.
Dawn adds: ‘One of the best ways to detect macular degeneration is during a routine eye test – so it’s important to have one regularly so we can detect changes over time, and this is equally important if you are housebound.
‘During your eye test, whether you have one at home or in one of our stores, your optometrist will carry out at a number of tests which will help check the overall health of your eyes as well as whether you need new glasses or contact lenses.’
‘Treatment will depend on the type of macular degeneration you have,’ says Dawn. ‘There is currently no treatment available for dry AMD, but the wet type can sometimes be helped, if it is detected early.
‘If there are signs of wet macular degeneration, your optometrist will refer you to a hospital or clinic for prompt treatment, which usually involves regular injections to stop your sight getting any worse.’
Specsavers Home Visits offer comprehensive free eye tests in the home and in care homes for people who qualify for an NHS-funded eye test and are unable to leave their home unaccompanied due to a physical or mental illness or disability.
For more information about eligibility for an eye test at home with Specsavers Home Visits, or to book an appointment, call 0808 239 4492 or visit http://www.specsavers.co.uk/home-eye-tests.
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