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For many older people, the diagnosis of AMD (age-related Macular Degeneration) is devastating. There’s no doubt the prospect of living with a visual impairment is terrifying. If this is happening to you or someone close to you, it’s important to realise AMD is something you can live with and still enjoy a full and rewarding life.
A large number of people have never heard of AMD so don’t understand the impact the disease can have. When something obstructs our vision, our automatic response is to move our head to look round it. With AMD, moving your head to see more clearly doesn’t help and this can result in great frustration.
Eighty year old actress Dame Judi Dench suffers from AMD, and even though she can no longer read her own scripts she refuses to give up and retire! So, while you might never get used to having AMD, it is possible to adapt.
Currently, there is no cure for AMD. It is a progressive disease which will continue to get worse as time goes on. But you can make changes to your lifestyle which will help slow down the development of your AMD.
Smokers are four times more likely to develop AMD, so trying to give up makes sense. Giving up smoking isn’t easy, particularly at a time like this when you’re stressed about your eyesight, but if it helps slow down the deterioration of your macula, it’s worth the effort.
Eating sensibly is good for your all-round health, but did you know eating plenty of leafy green vegetables and things like leeks, broccoli and sweetcorn helps slow down macular degeneration? Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and herring contain Omega 3 which is also beneficial.
James Sutton, the Banbury-based optometrist with a special interest in AMD, believes strongly in the benefits of dietary supplements. He recommends the Viteyes range which is specially formulated for eye health.
Viteyes contains the exact formulation developed over fifteen years of research in the United States by the National Eye Institute and the North Chicago VA Medical Centre. The capsules contain vitamins C,E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc and omega3 which all help to maintain your vision, as well as other key vitamins and minerals.
Although your vision is impaired with AMD, you will never be completely blind. Your peripheral vision will not be affected. With some practice, you will learn to use your peripheral vision more effectively.
For many people, giving up driving is about giving up their independence. Your ability to drive will depend on how advanced your AMD is and whether both eyes are affected. You are legally obligated to inform the DVLA if you have any medical condition which can affect your ability to drive.
When you’re diagnosed with AMD, you will need to take medical advice about whether or not you can continue to drive. Even if you have to give up driving, it doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors. Depending on your age you might qualify for a free bus pass.
If your sight continues to deteriorate and using public transport is difficult, the Royal Voluntary Service and other organisations will help you with hospital and GP appointments, and even with trips to the shops.
Reading is difficult with AMD but that doesn’t mean you have to give up this wonderfully relaxing interest. Initially, you might manage to read large format print especially if the lighting is good. Alternatively, there are tens of thousands of audio books available. The Royal National Institute for the Blind has over 23,000 talking books available for download completely free of charge.
Your safety is of paramount importance so it’s worth changing things around at home to help you adapt.
Talking clocks and watches have been around for many years and the RNIB shop sells all sorts of clever gadgets to help you with everyday tasks. But you might be amazed at the advances in technology that will help you cope with your AMD.
Many smart phones now have a voice activation function, so instead of battling with the keypad, you simply give it a command! If you use a computer, you might benefit from screen reading software which reads out the words on the screen.
If you enjoy writing or have a lot of correspondence to deal with, speech recognition software will help. You speak into the microphone and the software ‘types’ it on the screen.
Macular Degeneration will have an impact on your life and for the people around you, but the problems aren’t insurmountable. There is help and support available so don’t feel embarrassed or afraid to ask for it. The Macular Society has over 300 support groups across the UK and work towards improving the quality of life for AMD sufferers. They can be contacted by phone on 0300 3030 111. And remember, if Judi Dench can do it – so can you!
Feature writer Joy McCarthy
This featured article is editorial sponsored by Butterflies eyecare
Tel: 0330 660 0481
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