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The most common conditions are:

  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Cataracts



Age-related macular degeneration

What is macular degeneration?
The macular is a small area at the very centre of the retina, which is at the back of your eye. The macular is very important and is responsible for us seeing what is straight in front of us. It allows us to see colour and detail for activities such as reading or writing. 

Sometimes the cells of the macular get damaged and stop working, and there are many reasons for this. If the condition occurs later in life, usually in the over 60s, it is called age-related macular degeneration (AMD). 

Broadly speaking, there are two types of AMD, which are referred to as wet or dry.

Dry AMD is the most common form of the condition, which develops slowly. It causes gradual loss to the central vision.

Wet AMD results in the blood vessels growing behind the retina, causing scarring and bleeding, which leads to the sight loss. This can develop quickly. 

Will I lose my sight completely?
AMD is not painful and it rarely leads to total blindness.  AMD only affects the central vision but you still have outside (peripheral) vision to get around.  

Is there treatment available?
It is possible to have treatment for wet AMD in the early stages to help prevent the blood vessels growing behind the retina. New treatments are being developed all the time for wet AMD and are available in the UK, but not all treatments are funded by the NHS. 

At the moment there are no treatments for the dry AMD.  There is some research that suggests that some vitamin supplements are able to slow down the progression of the condition, but cannot restore the sight.  

How can I prevent it from getting worse?
Make sure you are getting professional medical advice and have the condition properly diagnosed and treated. In the case of the wet AMD, treatment is available at early stages. 

Research also suggests that stopping smoking can reduce the risk of AMD developing. Protecting your eyes from the sun can prevent damage to the retina. A healthy diet including plenty of fruit and vegetables can also help.  

Where can I get further help? 
If you suspect you have AMD but there are no sudden symptoms, you should see your optician or speak to your GP about being referred to a consultant ophthalmologist (eye specialist).  

If are experiencing a sudden sight loss ask your GP to refer you to the specialist as an emergency appointment. 


What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions in which the optic nerve is damaged at the point where it leaves the eye. This nerve carries information from the eye to the brain where it is seen as a picture. Glaucoma is caused by an increase in the pressure of the fluid inside the eye, damaging the optic nerve. 

Will I lose my sight completely?
Your vision may become patchy or you may lose sight from the side (peripheral) of your eyes, leading to tunnel vision. If caught early, glaucoma can be controlled, although any damage cannot be reversed.  

Is there treatment available?
Getting prompt treatment is vital as the condition can be treated and controlled in the early stages – often with special eye drops.

Who is at risk of getting it?
Glaucoma can be hereditary but it may not affect each generation. It tends to affect people over the age of 40. If a close relative has the condition you are entitled to a free NHS eye test every year. 

If you are of African origin you are more at risk of chronic glaucoma, as are people with a high degree of short sight. Diabetes is also believed to increase the risk of developing the condition. 

Where can I get further help? 
Have your eyes tested regularly, as this will help in identifying the problem earlier. 

The international Glaucoma Association can give further and more detailed information. 

Diabetic retinopathy

What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by complications of diabetes. This condition is very common in people who have had long term diabetes or if the condition is not properly kept under control.

The central vision is mainly affected when the blood vessels are damaged and when new blood vessels are formed. Unfortunately the new vessels are weak and can bleed easily, causing scar tissue to form in the eye. This condition often results in blurred or patchy vision.

Will I lose my sight completely?
If the condition is not treated or properly managed it can lead to total blindness if the retina becomes too damaged.

Is there treatment available?
Most sight problems caused by diabetic retinopathy can be managed by laser treatment in early stages. It is important to realise that laser treatment can only preserve the sight you have and cannot make it better.

How can I prevent it from getting worse?
Having regular eye tests every year is vital in helping to recognise any potential problems. The important thing is not to wait until you have a sight problem. People with diabetes are entitled to free tests. 

Where can I get more help? 

For further information and advice about diabetes, contact Diabetes UK at


What are cataracts?
Cataracts are a common and well known condition that affects the lens of the eye. Normally the lens is clear or transparent, but when a cataract forms, part of the lens can go cloudy or opaque. This results in not being able to focus properly and sight can become misty or blurred. 

Will I lose my sight completely?
In majority of the cases, cataract is successfully treatable as soon as it becomes a problem. If left untreated, it can lead to blindness.

Is there treatment available?
With modern surgery the operation is usually done as soon as your eyesight affects your daily life. In the past, eye specialists would wait until the cataract became ‘ripe’ and your vision was very poor before suggesting you had the cataract removed, but this is no longer the case.