Judi Dench Speaks Out about Macular Degeneration

One of Britain’s best-loved actresses, Dame Judi Dench, has revealed the full extent of her struggle against age-related macular degeneration (AMD). 

In an interview in the US, when Dench spoke openly about her difficulties reading scripts and watching films. Nonetheless, the 79-year-old actress, who has recently received her seventh Oscar nomination for the film Philomena, has vowed not to let her vision loss affect her career.

“I never want to make much of it, but it is difficult – very, very difficult,” she told the Hollywood Reporter.

I can’t read any more. I can’t paint like I used to. I try to watch movies, but it’s quite difficult. But these are all of the negatives. I don’t want to really think about all that. What I can do, I do. And I somehow get by.”

Dench is determined that neither her AMD nor her recent knee operation will force her into retirement. “It’s the rudest word in my dictionary, ‘retire,’” she said. “And ‘old’ is another one. I don’t allow that in my house.”

What is Age-related Macular Degeneration?

AMD is the western world’s most common cause of vision loss and affects over 500,000 people in the UK. The condition, which is most prevalent in those aged over 50, develops when the delicate macula cells in the centre of the retina become damaged.

The two main types of AMD are ‘dry AMD‘ and ‘wet AMD‘. The dry form accounts for 90 per cent of cases and causes a gradual loss of vision as a result of a build-up of waste products called drusen. With wet AMD the damage is caused by abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula – and serious vision loss can occur without diagnosis and treatment.

Dench has been diagnosed with both forms, suffering from wet AMD in one eye and dry AMD in the other. Early diagnosis and treatment of wet AMD is essential to minimise the risk of severe loss of vision, and the actress has described how the treatment she received helped to ‘arrest’ the condition. However, there is currently no cure for either type of AMD, which is why support and visual aids are also invaluable for sufferers to help manage their condition.

Important advice

The risk of developing macular degeneration increases with age and hereditary factors. However, there are steps everyone can take to help minimise their risk of developing the condition.

First and foremost, regular eye checks are essential and will help an optometrist to identify any vision changes which may be indicators of the condition.

At Eyecare Opticians, our optometrists are able to conduct OCT (ocular coherence tomography) scans at the same time as standard eye tests, allowing us to detect early symptoms of macular degeneration.

By saving the images and results we can also closely monitor any changes to the condition of the retina and the health of your eyes.

Anyone who experiences sudden changes to their vision, such as blurring, blind spots, extreme sensitivity to light or seeing images in a distorted way, must see an optometrist as a matter of urgency. Contact us as soon as possible for an appointment.

If you are concerned about your chances of developing the condition a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your likelihood. Not smoking, eating healthily and wearing sunglasses that protect your eyes from UV rays can all help reduce your risk of developing AMD.

For more information or to book an appointment with an optometrist please call us on 01473 240400.


Image: Judi_Dench_at_the_BAFTAs_2007.jpg by Caroline Bonarde Ucci / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0