Age-related macular degeneration might end Judi Dench’s acting career! Know all about the condition

Hollywood actor Judi Dench has age-related macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease where your central vision gets blurry as you age.
Judi Dench suffers age related macular degeneration
Judi Dench suffers age related macular degeneration. Image courtesy: Facebook
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 11 Jun 2024, 14:00 pm IST
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Diminishing vision is why Hollywood actress Judi Dench might not take on any more roles. The 89-year-old actress, who is known for her spectacular performances in eight James Bond films as well as other projects such as Shakespeare in Love and A Fine Romance, recently said in an interview, that she can barely see on set or read her scripts.

Age-related macular degeneration is an eye disease which can blur your vision. It is a common problem all over the world. A 2022 study, titled The Prevalence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration in the United States, and published in JAMA Ophthalmology, states that 19.83 million Americans were suffering from age-related macular degeneration. While research is still on as to why this happens, your genes as well as other environmental factors can impact your chances of getting this degeneration. Read on to learn more about this disease.

What is age-related macular degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration is when your central vision appears to be blurred. This can happen because your age can cause some damage to your macula, that part of the retina that is sensitive to light and is situated at the back of your eye. This can lead to vision loss, especially for older people. While this may not lead to complete blindness, blurred central vision can make seeing things very difficult, states the National Eye Institute.

Types of age-related macular degeneration

There are two types of age-related macular degeneration:

1. Dry macular degeneration

This accounts for 85-90 per cent of the macular degeneration cases. In this condition, there is pigmentation, or small yellow deposits called Drusen. This impacts the macula, and your vision, states this study titled Recent Advances in the Management and Understanding of Macular Degenration.

An old woman trying to read on her phone
Age-relate macular degeneration can get worse withe every decade, after the age of 55 years. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Wet macular degeneration

According to the above-mentioned study, 10-15 per cent of people with age-related macular degeneration suffer from wet macular degeneration. This is defined by the growth of new blood vessels under the retina and the macula.

Symptoms of age-related macular degeneration

The National Eye Institute listed some symptoms of age-related macular degeneration that one must look out for. Age-related macular degeneration happens over three stages, and the symptoms for these vary.

1. Early AMD

Here there are usually no symptoms that are seen.

2. Intermediate dry AMD

This is the second stage and here also some people will not have any symptoms. However, one may notice some very mild symptoms such as some blurriness, or unable to see anything in dim lighting.

3. Late AMD

People suffering from wet or dry AMD will not be able to see straight lines. These will look crooked to them. There will also be some blurriness near your central vision. You may also see some blank spots. Meanwhile, seeing objects in dim lighting will be tough, and colours will also appear dull.

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Causes of age-related macular degeneration

While the reason behind age-related macular degeneration cannot be properly defined. some factors can put you at risk.

1. Age

If you are 55 years or older, then this can increase your chances of getting age-related macular degeneration. It is most common in people who are aged 75 years and above. The risk of getting AMD increases with each decade after the age of 50 years, states this study, published in the Romanian Journal of Ophthalmology.

2. Family history

Your genes or any history of AMD can also be a risk factor. A study, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, states that if you have an immediate family member with AMD, then the risk of you getting it is greatly increased. The study observed that a 23 per cent increased risk was observed in the siblings of AMD patients. Therefore, any symptoms of decreased vision or distortion must be investigated at once if you have a family history.

3. Smoking

Smoking can impact eyesight. The Physician’s Health Study and the Nurses’ Health Study observed that people who smoked 20 or more cigarettes per day had a twofold increase risk compared with non-smokers in two different cohorts of incident cases of AMD followed for at least 7 years.

4. Racial Pre-disposition

If you are a non-Hispanic, white person, then that may also increase your chances of getting AMD. This study, published in Archives of Ophthalmology, states that non-Hispanic black persons, who were 60 years or older, had a statistically significantly lower risk of AMD than non-Hispanic, white persons, aged 60 years and older.

5. Heart disease

The Journal of American Heart Association states that if there is an increased risk of heart failure due to cardiovascular diseases, then this can also lead to more chances of AMD. However, more research is needed for the same.

A close up of an eye
Age related macular degeneration dies not lead to blindness, but your central vision becomes blurry, making it tough for you to see. Image courtesy: Pexels

Diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration

While annual eye exams are mandatory, there are a series of other tests too that the doctor can recommend to get a confirmation of AMD. The Fundus Photography test is one such test. Here, the doctor gets a picture of the inside of your eye. Besides this, Fluorescein angiography can be done where the doctor will inject a dye into a vein in your arm. This dye will eventually travel to the blood vessels in your eye, and the doctor will diagnose AMD.

Another test is the Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). Here, it takes cross sectional pictures of the retina.

Can you prevent age-related macular degeneration?

There are ways to lower your chances of AMD. The National Eye Institute recommends some ways such as not smoking, getting physical exercise regularly, maintaining your blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as eating a balanced diet rich in antioxidants.

Treatment for age-related macular degeneration

Treatment for AMD depends on the stage of the disease. There are no symptoms of early AMD, and hence, no treatment as well. If you are in the intermediate stage, then dietary supplements including vitamins and minerals can slow down or even stop the degeneration. If you have late AMD, then some supplements can help you. In a study, published by the National Eye Institute, daily supplementation can stop the disease from progressing from the intermediate stage to the late AMD stage, by 25-30 per cent.

A study, published by JAMA Ophthalmology, recommends a multivitamin formula consisting of 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, 400 international units (IU) of vitamin E, 80 mg of zinc, 15 mg of beta carotene and 2 mg of copper. However, later, beta-carotene was replaced by lutein and zeaxanthin. Severe forms of the disease may require intravitreal injections and/or laser treatment.

Consequences of age-related macular degeneration

The loss of vision, or blurry vision can affect our daily life. A study, published in Clinical Ophthalmology, states that the prevalence of anxiety and depression is high in AMD patients. Besides medication, low vision rehabilitation and AMD-specific behavioural and self-management programs can help.

Summary

Age-related macular degeneration is when your central vision becomes blurry. This can happen due to age. However, other factors such as family history, smoking and heart disease can also put you at risk. Although there is no cure, daily dietary supplements and lifestyle can help prevent progression of the disease.

FAQs

Can you reverse age-related macular degeneration?

No, it is not possible to reverse it. However, there are a few ways to stop it from progressing.

How fast does AMD progress?

It can take up to several years for the disease to progress, states the National Eye Institute.

 

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About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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