Judi Dench: Spotlight on Macular Degeneration

Dame Judi Dench just announced that she suffers from macular degeneration. The Oscar winning, British actress, best known for her roles as M in James Bond and Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love, was diagnosed with the age-related, degenerative eye condition. The condition has caused partial loss to Judi Dench’s vision making it to where she can no longer read her scripts or clearly see people right in front of her.

What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a common vision problem for adults over age 50. About a third of adults over age 75 (Judi Dench is 77) suffer from macular degeneration. Macular degeneration causes a loss of vision in the center of the visual field because of damage to the retina. There are two forms of macular degeneration: dry and wet. Macular degeneration can make it difficult or impossible to read or recognize faces, although enough peripheral vision remains to allow other activities of daily life.

Treatment for macular degeneration can be very effective. In many cases treatment can cause the damage to regress and the patient will have improved vision.

How Can I Help Someone I Care For Who Has Macular Degeneration?
If someone you care for has macular degeneration there are things you can do to help them. Macular degeneration does not affect peripheral vision. With assistance, people with macular degeneration can learn to use their peripheral vision to compensate for the impaired vision in the center of the eye. Check with your doctor and local state department of health for classes on independent living and for help obtaining assistive technology devices.

There are many technology solutions that are readily available and easy to use. At your library and local bookstore, you can find many books on tape. Also you can purchase software that translates text to voice and will “read” the text on the computer screen. The Kindle e-reader also has a text speech feature available for most books on their devices.

Another easy, computer-based solution is to copy text into a word processing program, enlarge the font, and then print it for the patient. Also, white text on a black background is often easier to read.

With help from caregivers and family, those suffering from macular degeneration can find solutions to help them enjoy all of their previous activities.