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Judi Dench shares 'traumatic' details of decade-long health battle

Dame Judi was diagnosed with an eye condition in 2012, with her sight still deteriorating

judi dench eyesight
Melanie Macleod
Wellness Editor
Updated: March 7, 2023
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Dame Judi Dench appears in Who Do You Think You Are on Tuesday, and while the actress appears upbeat as ever, the film icon was diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), in 2012, which is causing her to lose her sight.

The actress spoke openly about her condition in November 2022, during an episode of Louis Theroux Interviews. When Louis asked the iconic thespian how bad her condition is, the 88-year-old replied: "Bad. Bad enough. Bad enough in that you're quite fuzzy. You're just a tad fuzzy."

judi dench looking serious © Photo: Rex

Judi Dench's eyesight has been in decline for over 10 years

The journalist asked Dame Judi if her lack of eyesight made her want to step back from her career, to which she responded: "I don't want to retire. I'm not doing anything much at the moment because I can't see."

On how she manages to learn her lines without being able to see, Judi replied: "I've got to teach myself a new way of learning. I've realised that I need to know where it is on the page. I'll teach myself a way. I know I will, as long as I don't trip over doing it.” See Judi struggling with her eyesight during a public appearance in the video below.

WATCH: Dame Judi Dench struggles with her eyesight during public appearance

Judi's eyesight has impacted her personal life too, with the star explaining to the Radio Times in 2021: "I can't read the paper now, I can't do the crossword, I can't read a book."

judi dench at the london film festival 2022

Judi has been struggling with her eyesight since 2012

She went on to reveal that in 2017, she was forced to stop driving.

READ: Judi Dench opens up about love life: 'You still feel desire. Does that ever go?'

"A couple of years ago I stopped driving," she began, before going on to call it one of the most "traumatic" and "appalling" moments of her life. "But I just know I'll kill somebody if I get behind the wheel of a car now," she explained.

Dame Judi also revealed that her mother suffers from a similar condition, while she fears that her daughter Finty will inherit the condition, since it's genetic. Judi added that she ensures Finty has regular eye tests in a bid to take stock of her sight.

MOST READ: Who is Judi Dench's partner David Mills? Inside the acting icon's love life

For Judi, the fear of losing her sight is all too much. When asked when she thought she may lose her vision entirely she replied: "I don't want to say. I can see enough… You adapt to it. So I ignore it altogether."

It's undeniably hard to come to terms with, but leading optometrist Dr Nish says there are things that can be done to slow the progession. "Studies show that taking nutritional supplements such as Vitamin C & E, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Zinc & Copper may help," she tells HELLO!. "Also, lifestyle changes such as dieting, exercising, avoiding smoking and protecting eyes from UV rays may help as well."

Here's everything else there is to know about the condition.

What is macular degeneration?

"Age-Related Macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that affects one’s central vision where their sharpest vision occurs, causing vision loss," Dr Nish explains. "This is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. There are two forms of AMD - Dry and Wet. The dry form involves the accumulation of drusen (i.e waste of the eye) in one's macula, while the wet form involves abnormal blood vessel growth & fluid build-up."

At what age might you get age-related macular degeneration?

"Age-related macular degeneration may be found as early as age 55," says Dr Nish. Dame Judi Dench was diagnosed when she was 77 years old.

Age-related macular degeneration symptoms

"Most of the time, AMD can be diagnosed before symptoms arise by an eye doctor," Dr Nish says. "In the later stage of AMD, symptoms may include blurry or fuzzy vision, the appearance of straight lines/objects being wavy, and/or grey, dark or empty areas in the centre of one's vision."

Treatment for age-related macular degeneration

"Unfortunately, Macular Degeneration is considered an incurable eye disease," Dr Nish tells us. "However, studies show that taking nutritional supplements such as Vitamin C & E, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Zinc & Copper may slow the progression. Also, lifestyle changes such as dieting, exercising, avoiding smoking and protecting eyes from UV rays may help as well. For Wet AMD, medications called anti-VEGF drugs can reduce the abnormal blood vessels, bleeding & swelling but cannot repair any previous vision loss."

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