One in three people know someone with macular disease, according to a survey by leading sight loss charity the Macular Society.
Macular disease affects more people in the UK than Alzheimer’s, yet many people remain unaware of what it is and who is affected.
According to the survey only 63 per cent of people know of the condition, despite 600,000 people living with it in Britain, and around 200 people being diagnosed every day.
The Macular Society has produced a short film to raise the profile of the debilitating condition, which affects people such as Dame Judi Dench, and most recently celebrity photographer Terry O’Neill. The film also highlights the devastating impact losing your sight can have on both individuals and families’ lives.
The film, which has launched during Macular Week (25 June – 1 July), follows the journey of a mother who is losing her sight to macular disease and is struggling to see her son grow up.
Macular disease reduces your ability to see colours or make out fine detail. People affected are often unable to drive, read, watch TV or recognise the faces of their closest friends and family.
There are several forms of macular disease, with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) being the most common. Typically AMD affects people from the age of 55, and the risk of developing it increases with age. By the age of 90 it is estimated to affect one in five people. However, rarer forms of macular disease can affect younger people.
Katie Berrill was just 31 when she was diagnosed with macular disease.
At a routine eye test last year she was devastated to hear she could lose her sight.
“My whole life had changed in a day,” she said.
“I just remember going home and breaking down, I cried so much I literally couldn’t breathe. I went into shock for a few days, I couldn’t eat or sleep.
“My biggest fear was not being able to see my little boy’s face.”
By 2050 the number of people with macular disease is expected to double to more than 1.3m.
Cathy Yelf, chief executive of the Macular Society, said: “Macular disease is largely incurable and untreatable and a diagnosis can leave people feeling depressed, isolated and uncertain about their future.
“People describe losing their sight as being similar to a bereavement and we have seen first hand the impact it can have on their lives.
“More people are affected by macular disease than they are by Alzheimer’s, yet awareness remains low. With one in three people knowing someone with macular disease we want to continue to raise awareness so we can keep funding vital research, which will one day lead us to a cure.”
The Macular Society, which founded Macular Week in 2015, is working closely with Vision Express during the week to highlight the importance of regular sight tests.
Jonathan Lawson, CEO at Vision Express, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Macular Society again this year and applaud the important work they are doing to raise awareness of this sight stealing condition.
“Although a cure for most macular disease is yet to be found, some macular conditions can be treated if detected early enough. Having regular eye tests is vitally important to help prolong healthy eyes, and for those already diagnosed with the disease, advice from our expert optometrists can make a real difference to a customer’s quality of life.”