As a successful art curator, Norah Norton has always considered her eyesight to be an important work tool. Her job involves selecting works of art, proofreading catalogues and checking images and captions.
So imagine Norah’s dismay when, back in 2007, she started having problems with her eyesight. “I’d be watching the TV and people looked a bit like aliens,” says Norah (68) from West Cork. “Their heads looked all misshapen, and any straight lines looked distorted.”
Norah was having problems while driving at night too. Car headlights looked diffused and hazy in her rearview mirror, making it difficult to judge which lane cars were in. “If I needed to read a road sign I’d have to park the car and go over and look at it,” she says. “It wasn’t safe so I stopped going out.”
By now semi-retired, Norah enjoyed having more time for hobbies such as reading and pottering in her beloved garden. But soon her eyesight was causing problems here too. She found she had generally become more clumsy in the garden and, one day, after weeding, she noticed she’d accidentally pulled out some small seedlings by mistake. Reluctantly she decided it was time to hang up her gardening gloves.
Her failing sight meant Norah was forced to give up reading too. “I could read but it was so exhausting I just had to give up,” she says. But perhaps worst of all, Norah found she was no longer able to do the work she loved, and was forced to pull out of a couple of art exhibitions she was due to organise.
When Norah went to her doctor about her eyes, he diagnosed dry age-related macular degeneration, or dry AMD (see AMD: the facts, below). “I was devastated and my immediate thought was that I didn’t want to become a burden to my two children, who were still at college at the time.”
“The doctor told me I should prepare to move back to the city in the next few years, as he didn’t think I’d be able to cope without driving. I’d moved to the country because I wanted to return to the area where I’d grown up and the thought of having to give it all up was heartbreaking. I just assumed that was it, there was nothing I could do – I’d just have to put up with it,” says Norah.
About six months later Norah heard an eye specialist talking on the radio about the promising results of trials for a supplement called MacuShield. This one-a-day eye health supplement contains lutein, found in spinach, and zeaxanthin, the yellow pigment found in corn. It also contains meso-zeaxanthin, derived from marigolds, which is believed to be effective for halting the progress of AMD.
“Apparently it had been trialled by people with AMD who reported that, not only was the supplement slowing the progression of the disease but was also helping to improve it in some cases,” says Norah. “I started taking MacuShield and within six months I began to notice a difference,” says Norah. “One night I went out into the back garden and realised I could see the outline of the shed and the fencing. I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a first.” Norah noticed other things too. The distorted lines she had been seeing started to go and driving at night was no longer a problem.
It’s now been four years since Norah started taking MacuShield and these days her sight is more or less back to normal. “If I close my right eye I can still see a bit of distortion in my left eye, but it’s only slight,” she says. “I can drive at night just the same as I did 20 years ago, I have no difficulties in the garden and I can even read crosswords in bed at night. It’s pretty miraculous and, as far as I’m concerned, the more people who know about MacuShield the better.”
Another good piece of news is that Norah has been able to return to the job she loves. This year she has organised two art exhibitions for her local authority, and there will be more in future. “Life is hectic and enjoyable,” she says. “On both the work and domestic fronts, I’m back on track.”
AMD: the facts
What is it?
The macula is the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. AMD gradually destroys a person’s sharp, central vision. There are two types:
Dry AMD happens when light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down causing a gradual loss of central vision and a fading of colours. It’s the most common cause of blindness in the over-60s.
Wet AMD results in new blood vessels growing behind the retina. This causes bleeding and scarring, which can lead to sight loss. Wet AMD can develop quickly and sometimes responds to treatment in the early stages. It accounts for about 10 per cent of all people with AMD.
What are the symptoms?
Fuzzy or blurry vision, an empty or dark area in the centre of your vision, straight lines appearing curved or wavy, and a dimming of vision when reading.
Is there a cure?
There is currently no cure for dry AMD. Studies have shown that the use of specific nutritional supplements help to reduce the rate at which the condition progresses. Again, there is no proven cure for wet AMD, although regular injections into the eye may help to halt the progress of the disease.
Can I prevent it?
You can reduce your chances of developing AMD by not smoking, wearing sunglasses, and eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg. Having regular eye tests can help with early diagnosis at a stage when treatment may be more effective. Adults over 50 should have an eye examination every two years.
To order Macushield Call 0121 444 6585 (lines open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm) or visit www.wellbeing-uk.com. Free Delivery on all UK orders.