From reading difficulties to not being able to recognize faces, eye expert warns of signs of the leading cause of vision loss in over 50s

Middle-aged and elderly people shouldn’t let fear of Covid-19 or concerns about treatments prevent them from checking possible symptoms for a major cause of irreversible vision loss, Dublin eye surgeon Mark Cahill warned yesterday.

r Cahill said the more people in Ireland are living longer, the more cases of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are being diagnosed.

More than 100,000 people in Ireland are now living with AMD and AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in the over 50s.

He said it can occur in people in their 50s, but risks increase with age and “everyone over 90 has some form of macular degeneration.”

“Distortion, where someone is looking at a straight line but it is being bent, is a symptom. Another is the loss of central vision when someone has trouble recognizing faces or reading a book.”

Blurring or dark spots in vision may go unnoticed in the early stages.

A study showed that 7.2 percent of people over 50 in the republic suffer from age-related macular degeneration. Its prevalence is highest in those over 75 at 13.2 percent and affects 5 percent of people in the 50 to 64 age group.

Marking AMD Awareness Day today, Mr Cahill said there are two types of the disease, the dry form and the more serious wet form.

“One in ten people with dry macular degeneration gets the wet form, in which blood vessels grow under the center of the retina.

“Wet macular degeneration can be treated with injections under the eye. They prevent it from getting worse in nine out of ten people. They improve vision in seven out of ten people and make vision much better.”

He added, “We have patients who have been receiving the injections for 15 years.”

However, fear of the injections can prevent some people from receiving the treatment needed to save their vision in time.


Caitriona Walsh, Managing Director, Novartis Ireland, and Mark Cahill, Specialist Ophthalmologist, Eye and Throat Hospital, are pictured in Iveagh Gardens, Dublin, at the launch of AMD (age-related macular degeneration) awareness week. Image: Fran Veale/Julien Behal Photography

“People may be concerned about their pupils becoming dilated during an eye exam, but there is now a treatment,” said Mr Cahill, spokesman for the Irish College of Ophthalmologists.

People with dry macular degeneration can take an eye supplement made from marigolds grown in Mexico.

He said during the worst of the pandemic, some people were reluctant to come in for tests and, in some cases, treatments, but clinics had adapted to allow for more space and minimal exposure.

“But overall, people are very resilient and know they need their injections.

“It’s important that people over 50 have their eyes checked regularly by an optometrist or ophthalmologist for AMD and other diseases like glaucoma,” he added.

Work is ongoing to find out more about the causes of AMD and new insights have been gained through the EYE-D project led by researchers from Trinity College.

“As you get older, two things happen. Your inflammation changes — you don’t feel any different, but some of the chemicals you make change over time. The retina also has its own day and night cycle in which it should open and close internally to prepare for the next day. When you get older and you have AMD, that doesn’t work properly anymore,” Mr. Cahill said. From reading difficulties to not being able to recognize faces, eye expert warns of signs of the leading cause of vision loss in over 50s

Fry Electronics Team

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