Lack of awareness risking thousands of people’s sight

RNIB Logo* Nearly half of adults (48 per cent) have never heard of Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK
* Only just over a third of adults (36 per cent) would make an appointment with their GP or optician straight away if they started experiencing blurry vision or wavy lines
* RNIB launches ‘Spot the signs’ to encourage over 50s to recognise the early signs of sight loss.

Lack of awareness of the symptoms and urgency needed to treat the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK is risking unnecessary blindness in thousands of people every year.

There are two main types of AMD, wet and dry. There is no current treatment for dry AMD but sight saving treatment is available for the wet type if diagnosed in time.

About 40,000 people develop wet AMD each year, however both the public and medical profession are failing to recognise the urgency needed to diagnose and treat the condition which can take your eye sight in as little as three months.

The recommended time it should take to be diagnosed is seven days, however the public not recognising the signs, and delays by some GPs, ptometrists
and other health professionals, are putting thousands of people’s sight at risk every year.

John Morgan, 71, from Lancashire, had to visit four different hospitals before being diagnosed with wet AMD. However, unfortunately by the time he me given confirmation, it was too late and he lost the central vision in his right eye. John wasn’t aware of AMD prior to being diagnosed.

He said: “There needs to be more public awareness about AMD, especially the wet form. We need to get the word out there. There’s lots of publicity around cancer and heart disease but nothing about AMD. People just aren’t aware of it and the urgency needed to get treatment for wet AMD.

“If I’d known back then what I know now, I would have been shouting from the roof tops demanding treatment right from the start. This can’t continue to happen to other people.”

New research commissioned by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), as part of its wider Save our Sight (SOS) campaign, found that many patients were not aware of the symptoms of wet AMD or the need for urgent treatment.

RNIB’s research report – Don’t lose sight! Don’t delay! – reveals:

* Nearly 60 per cent of patients were unaware of the condition despite having dry AMD – a more gradual loss of sight which cannot be treated but can develop into the wet form
* Just under 70 per cent of patients were not diagnosed within seven days – in accordance with professional guidance – increasing their chances of permanently losing their central vision

Smoking is a risk factor, with smokers twice as likely to develop AMD than non-smokers. Studies show that stopping smoking can reduce your risk of developing AMD.

RNIB is urging people to be aware of the early signs of wet AMD. Anyone who is experiencing changes to their vision such as straight lines appearing
wavy or curved should visit their optometrist immediately.

Clara Eaglen, Eye Health Campaigns Manager at RNIB, said: “Losing your central vision can have profound consequences with many people unable to carry out basic tasks such as driving, chopping vegetables, reading a newspaper or writing a shopping list. However, it doesn’t have to be this way and people should not be losing their sight unnecessarily when there’s treatment available.

“We’re encouraging people over 50 and the medical profession to find out how to spot the signs of wet AMD and understand why it’s important to act quickly. About 40,000 people develop wet AMD each year but the deterioration of your sight can be managed with treatment, if caught in time.”

To find out more on how to Spot the signs of AMD and other eye diseases visit www.rnibspotthesigns.org.uk or call RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999.

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