When Dame Judi Dench announced she was no longer able to read scripts because of an eye condition, some 500,000 people in Britain understood what she was going through.
The James Bond actress, who turns 80 this year, first revealed her eyesight was deteriorating in 2012. Since then, she’s said her loss of vision means she has to learn scripts on a tape recorder, or ask someone to read them to her.
‘I can’t read anymore,’ she said. ‘I can’t paint like I used to. I try to watch movies but it’s quite difficult.’
Dench suffers from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a painless condition that generally leads to the loss of central vision (directly in front of you). It doesn’t affect your peripheral vision so doesn’t cause complete blindness. Although there is no cure, it can be controlled and pioneering treatments might help some people.
The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) says AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in Britain and the NHS estimates one in every ten people over 65 has the condition to some degree. It tends to be more common in women than men and in those over 50.
‘In 2009, economic analysis consultancy Access Economics projected that by 2050 the number of people in Britain with AMD would rise to 890,000,’ says a RNIB spokesperson. ‘This translates to more than 71,000 new cases a year.’
AMD comes on with advancing age but can develop in those as young as 40, says Andy Luff, ophthalmic surgeon at Optegra Eye Hospitals.
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