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'I rubbed my eye - and suddenly the words looked muddled and distorted'

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects the eyesight – and Christine O’Flynn writes about the fright of discovering she had AMD, but how she’s learned to deal with it.

Christine O’Flynn

IN MAY 2015, I was diagnosed with age related macular degeneration (AMD).

I had always been mindful of my eye health, going for eye tests every two years as recommended. There were still six months to go before I was due my next eye test when I realised something was amiss.

I never use subtitles when watching TV, however my husband and daughter do. My daughter was home on a visit and one evening we were all watching TV, with subtitles on, and it was then I noticed the first sign of AMD, although I had no idea what it was at that time.

‘I was terrified’

I simply rubbed my right eye and suddenly the letters of the subtitles looked muddled and distorted when viewed with my left eye only. I placed my hand over my left eye and realised I could see perfectly with my right eye, my left eye was the problem.

I was terrified but I didn’t mention it to anyone at the time. The next day, I made an appointment to see my optometrist.

The optometrist tested my eyes and then asked me to come back in two weeks for a second test. When I did, my sight had deteriorated a little in that short time and she suspected AMD.

She arranged for me to get an appointment very quickly with a consultant ophthalmologist in the Mater Private Hospital. I was diagnosed with wet AMD in my left eye and dry AMD in my right eye.

I’ve been wearing glasses to read since I was in my fifties but other than having AMD, I have always been blessed with very good sight, especially my long sight. I am 75 now, I still don’t need glasses when driving. I am very lucky that my AMD was caught as early as it was. If I hadn’t been diagnosed when I was, my eyesight would probably have deteriorated further in the six months to my next eye appointment.

Before being diagnosed, I had heard of AMD but I didn’t know a lot about it. My consultant ophthalmologist worked out a treatment plan to suit my AMD and I began to have monthly injections into my left eye. At the moment, these injections are working and keeping my AMD at bay and manageable. My consultant stressed the importance of a healthy diet, with plenty of fruit and green, leafy vegetables. I was also advised to take three food supplement capsules every day.

In terms of lifestyle since diagnosis, nothing much has changed thankfully.

I love photography, I am an avid gardener and also a bookworm. I have always been a keen traveller, and have travelled alone to Australia, Malaysia and Singapore among other places. I have gone on gardening trips, as part of a group, to South Africa, Madeira, Spain to name but a few. I am in the Irish Fuchsia Society and go to yearly meetings of Eurofuchsia which are held in different European countries each year. I travel on my own and meet up with the group at the venue. I visit my family in Edinburgh frequently. I enjoy travelling on my own and always have a book or my kindle for company when I need it.

Having bad eyesight is something that has always worried me. My Mam had bad sight, getting worse as she grew older, which she found very frustrating. That’s why I always felt it necessary to get regular eye tests and stay alert when it came to my vision.

No one can tell what lies in the future, but while I am well, I will continue doing the things I love for as long as I possibly can and enjoy every sight I see.

This Monday, 10 September, marks the start of the 11th annual AMD Awareness Week. AMD is the number one cause of sight loss in Ireland for those aged over 50 and more than 7,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in Ireland. The symptoms, including vision distortion and blurring , often go unrecognised in the early stages so it is crucial that those aged 50 and over get their eyes tested regularly.

For more information and testing locations visit www.AMD.ie. The Novartis AMD testing bus will visit a number of locations during AMD Awareness Week.

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About the author:

Christine O’Flynn

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