Over 50s risking unnecessary sight loss

Chris PolechonskiSenior Research Executive Digital, Media and Technology
April 12, 2013, 10:56 AM UTC

New YouGov research for the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) shows that people over 50 are putting their eyesight at risk due to a lack of awareness of Age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the biggest cause of sight loss for those over 50, affects more than 500,000 people in the UK, yet our research reveals that almost one-third (32%) of people in this age group have never heard of the condition.

There are two main forms of AMD, wet and dry. Although there is no current treatment for dry AMD, sight saving treatment is available for the wet form if diagnosed in time. Urgent medical help is crucial though, as Wet AMD can take your sight in as little as three months. The recommended time it should take to be diagnosed is seven days.

However, our research also reveals that just less than half (47%) of those aged 50 and over would make an appointment with their optician or GP straightaway if they experienced blurry vision or wavy lines, which can be common symptoms of the condition.

Causes of AMD

The exact causes of AMD are not known but genetics, diet, alcohol intake and sensitivity to sunlight are all believed to have an impact. Smoking is a clear risk factor, with smokers twice as likely to develop the condition than non-smokers. It's as strong as the link between smoking and lung cancer.

The survey showed that almost two-thirds (63%) of those aged 50 and over didn’t think that stopping smoking could reduce the risk of sight loss, whilst almost three-quarters (74%) didn’t know that wearing sunglasses may reduce a person’s risk of sight loss.

Helen May, RNIB's Optometrist, said: "Losing your central vision can have a significant effect on individuals and makes everyday tasks such as reading, telling the time and preparing food more difficult, and can prevent people from driving. However, it doesn't have to be this way and people should not be losing their sight unnecessarily when there's treatment available.”

Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) is the leading charity offering information, support and advice to almost two million people who are blind and partially sighted in the UK.

See the YouGov/RNIB survey results