UK ophthalmologists are getting very worried about the increasing numbers of patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A brand new study shows that more UK residents are suffering from blindness due to AMD than ever before. If something drastic isn't done to combat the rapid rise in AMD now, eye doctors fear the UK could have a national health crisis.
This new report, written and published by the Macular Society, predicts that there will be about 1.3 million cases of AMD in the UK by 2050. To put this number into perspective, that means eye doctors will diagnose 400 new AMD patients every day.
Cathy Yelf, who serves as the chief executive of the Macular Society, told reporters that the rising rates of AMD are almost as high as the rates of dementia in older Britons. She believes the UK medical establishment doesn't fully appreciate the huge burdens the rise in AMD will cost the nation.
Yelf said AMD costs the UK about £1.6 billion each year. She also said that the cost for AMD drugs is right now at £200 million. Yelf points out that the UK government has invested far too little into AMD research. Of the £22.7 million spent on eye disease research in 2014, only £6 million was spent on AMD.
It is estimated that one in 30 UK residents has some form of sight loss now. About 360,000 UK citizens are legally blind or partially sighted. AMD, which remains the largest cause of blindness around the world, now affects 600,000 people in the UK.
AMD affects a person's retina over a long period of time. The first symptom of this disease is often blurred vision. While there's no official cure for AMD yet, doctors can prescribe various drugs and vitamins to slow the progression of the disease.
Many people who have lost their sight to AMD say that it is similar to mourning the loss of a loved one. In addition to the physical and monetary losses, the writers of this latest report point out the psychological costs of this terrible disease.
Eye doctors around the UK say they still have no idea how to best prevent or detect this disease in early stages. While they will continue to do research using the latest in genetics technology, they believe the best course of action is to raise awareness and organize institutions dedicated to providing aid for those with AMD.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has told the UK public that it is organizing various social services for AMD patients. Members of the RNIB's staff said that they are aware of the rapid rise in AMD cases and are planning accordingly.
The RNIB recommends everyone in the UK get a regular vision check to help detect AMD in its early stages. The easiest way to prevent AMD, RNIB says, is to stop smoking.
In order to address the intense rise in AMD, the Macular Society recommends the UK government increase funding into AMD research. This study, called "Age-related macular degeneration: collaborating to find a cure," was funded in part by The Clothworkers' Foundation .