March Newsletter 303.

Judy Dench on working through sight-loss

Dame Judy Dench has spoken of her determination to carry on working despite sight loss, even if that means using friends to learn lines and being gently told to stop delivering speeches to the proscenium arch rather than her fellow actors.

Dench described how she copes with deteriorating eyesight – the challenges, the unexpected advantages and the funny side – at an online event on Thursday with Stephen Fry and Hayley Mills Hayley for the Vision Foundation, the London sight loss charity.

Veteran actor James Martin shares his experiences of coping with sight loss

The star, who turns 90 in March, was diagnosed with an eye disease which affects central vision over 10 years ago and there is currently no cure. As his sight deteriorated and it became difficult for him to read and recognise faces, James got in touch with Sight Scotland Veterans in 2019. The Glasgow born and bred actor, who is now based in Musselburgh, said: “I had never heard of macular degeneration when I was diagnosed and had thought there’d be something to cure it, but soon found out that there isn’t currently. “My sight loss was very gradual, but I started to realise my central vision wasn’t as good as it should be and I couldn’t recognise faces – I now have to go by recognising voices.

Common eye conditions in the UK

Blind people report increase in visual hallucinations during pandemic

People with Charles Bonnet Syndrome, which involves visual hallucinations for people who have lost their sight, have had worsening symptoms during the pandemic, finds a study led by UCL researchers.

The study of 45 patients from Moorfields Eye Hospital between June and July 2020, published in BMJ Open Ophthalmology,reports of harrowing increases in symptoms in over half of participants.

The findings highlight that social isolation, loneliness, lack of exercise and exposure to distressing media over the COVID-19 lockdown have exacerbated and intensified visual hallucinations in 56% of the patients studied.

Without the help of RNIB I would be without a job and stuck in a rut

The RNIB is one of the UK’s leading sight loss charities and the largest community of blind and partially sighted people. It wants society, communities and individuals to see differently about sight loss. The organisation’s focus is on creating a world where there are no barriers for such people in any area of life.

Gene therapy will lead to a breakthrough in the treatment of eye disease

Scientists in Germany believe they have found a solution for people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration.

Scientists develop new implant to replace reading glasses

Scientists in Austria have developed a new implant to treat age-related decline in vision that often leads to using reading glasses to boost sight. More than 100 patients are taking part in a trial of the implant to treat presbyopia, the progressive loss of the ability to see objects that are near.

Air pollution is linked to permanent vision loss

Air pollution has been linked to an increased risk of progressive and irreversible vision loss, a large, long-term study found. University College London researchers hypothesized that air pollution might heighten the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration