You may recognize this Academy Award-winning actress from her numerous performances on TV, the stage, and the big screen. But aside from offering the world artistic masterpieces, Dame Judi Dench provides hope and inspiration to low vision patients around the globe.
Dench has been vocal about her struggles with vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and shares why the progressive eye disease isn’t stopping her from accomplishing her goals.
What is Macular Degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration is an eye condition that causes the gradual breakdown of the macula center of the retina, resulting in central vision loss — but does not lead to total loss of sight. So, for example, when a person with advanced AMD looks at their grandchild they may see the clothes the child is wearing, but not the child’s face.
There are two types of AMD: wet and dry. Dry AMD is much more common than wet, affecting more than 8 out of 10 patients with the condition.
Dry AMD is caused by slow degradation of the macula that leads to deposits of damaged retinal cells and gradual vision loss over several years. Wet AMD comprises about 20 percent of all AMD cases and is more severe than the dry type. Wet AMD occurs when new blood vessels develop underneath the retina and leak fluid, causing distorted vision and vision loss. Vision loss occurs much faster with wet AMD, resulting in permanent scarring inside the eye and severe vision loss.
Symptoms of AMD include:
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty recognizing faces
- Difficulty or inability to adjust to dim light
- Straight lines appearing wavy or distorted
- Requiring bright light to perform daily tasks
- A dark spot in the center of your visual field (wet AMD)
The onset of symptoms may be subtle and can easily go unnoticed. That’s why regular comprehensive eye exams are so crucial. The earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the better the outcome.
Unfortunately, there aren’t yet any known cures for either version of AMD, but there are a few treatments that may help slow vision loss. Moreover, your low vision optometrist can provide you with low vision aids and devices to help you continue to live a full, independent life.
How Judi Dench Copes With AMD
Judi Dench has both types of AMD, one in each eye. She announced her diagnosis in 2012 but reassured the public that her condition wouldn’t prevent her from continuing to perform.
In the early stages of her condition, she would have her script printed out in enlarged fonts. As her condition deteriorated, she lost her ability to read. Nowadays, friends or family members read and repeat the lines aloud to help her memorize her script.
In a recent interview, Dench shared that her vision loss spurred her to ‘find a way of just getting about and getting over the things that you find very difficult.’
While AMD has made performing and completing day-to-day tasks more challenging, it hasn’t prevented Dench from leading a full and happy life.
We'll Help You ‘Find a Way’
Living with vision loss is challenging, but we can help. Our low vision aids and devices help patients with sight-threatening conditions like glaucoma and AMD maximize their usable vision so they can carry out daily tasks.
At Low Vision of Arizona, our goal is to help ensure that you maintain a high quality of life, even with vision loss.
To schedule a low vision consultation for yourself or a loved one, call Low Vision of Arizona today.
Low Vision of Arizona serves patients from Gilbert, Mesa, Phoenix, and Chandler, Arizona and surrounding communities.
Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Paul L. Woolf
Q: What are some risk factors for developing age-related macular degeneration?
- A: AMD risk factors include family history, being over 55 years old, smoking, obesity, cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol. If any of these apply to you, speak with your low vision optometrist regarding the steps you can take to lower your risk of developing this vision-robbing eye disease.
Q: What are the first symptoms of AMD?
- A: At first, you may notice gradual or sudden changes in your vision. Straight lines may begin to appear distorted, or dark, blurry areas or whiteout may appear in the center of your vision. Dry AMD can sometimes take up to a decade to progress. With wet AMD, symptoms often appear and progress quickly, with very little warning.