Footballing Legend Ronnie Whelan Launches Fighting Blindness Guide to AMD

Footballing Legend Ronnie Whelan Launches Fighting Blindness Guide to Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Charity Recommends Everyone Over 50 Have a Check-up for AMD Every Two Years

With over 7,000 people newly-diagnosed with Age-related Macular Degeneration, or AMD, each year1, footballing legend Ronnie Whelan today launched Fighting Blindness’ new Guide to AMD for people affected by the condition, and their loved ones. In fact, AMD is the most common cause of sight loss in people over the age of 50 in Ireland and it’s estimated that seven per cent of Irish people over 50 years of age are living with AMD2. Indeed, the number of people affected by AMD is expected to reach 288 million globally by 20403, however, it is important to underline that many of these cases can be managed through early diagnosis and monitoring. Printed copies of the Guide, which was developed with the support of Bayer, are available by contacting Fighting Blindness by telephone at 01 678 9004 or by email at You can view a digital copy of the guide online at

Amongst the special guests speaking at the launch were Prof. Matthew Campbell, an AMD researcher at Trinity College Dublin, as well as Pat O’Donoghue and John Leonard, who live with AMD and are both members of the MIST (Macular Impairment Support and Togetherness) support group.

Launching the Guide, Ireland and Liverpool footballing legend, Ronnie Whelan, commented:
“AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in people aged over 50, which is why it is important to provide accurate and clear information, especially for the people who might be just recently diagnosed. I am delighted to lend my support to this project and raise awareness of this condition and this new resource available.”

For Prof. David Keegan, UCD Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology & Retina, and Fighting Blindness board member, it is important that people diagnosed with AMD stay positive about the future:
“This Guide provides a very useful explanation to those who have been newly-diagnosed with AMD, or who have family members with the condition. While hearing mention of AMD for the first time can be scary, it is important to stay positive and be aware that most people with AMD maintain reasonable vision. Even in advanced cases, patients retain peripheral vision and are still able to continue most of their day-to-day activities. It is also important to note that in certain types of AMD, we can treat degeneration with intra-ocular injections and they are very successful if given on time. There are many supports available to optimise visual function, from magnifiers to reading devices to phone apps, and people can be hopeful that there are new treatments being developed all the time that we anticipate will have a very positive impact in delaying the onset of sight loss and in reducing its severity.”

Kevin Whelan, Chief Executive of Fighting Blindness, is urging people who are over 50 years of age, and not only those who have a family history of AMD, to have an eye examination every two years:
“While this Guide is a very welcome resource for people with AMD, it is important to remember that there are steps that we can all take to reduce our risk of developing AMD or to secure an early diagnosis so that remedial steps can be taken. It is important that we reduce our risk of AMD and also catch it early so that we can stave off its worst effects and indeed stabilise or improve vision. That is why we encourage everyone over 50, and not only those with a family history of AMD, to have an eye examination every two years.”

For Ms Itziar Canamasas, Managing Director of Bayer Ireland, the Guide will prove a very useful resource for people with AMD and their families:
“Bayer is delighted to partner with Fighting Blindness to develop this Guide which provides clear and simple information on AMD. We hope this Guide will provide support for people with AMD and their family members as well as helpful advice on next steps. Bayer is helping reduce the number of people impacted globally by visual impairment through innovative products and research.”

Ms Olivia Reilly, Marketing and Communications Manager for Pharmed and Macu-SAVE Ireland, which is responsible for distributing the Guide, adds:
“Pharmed is delighted to be working in partnership with Fighting Blindness, a patient-led organisation with a vision to cure, support and empower. We are proud to distribute its exceptional new booklet ‘A Guide to Age-related Macular Degeneration’ nationwide which will no doubt be of significant benefit to people in the community who may be struggling with sight loss. We look forward to continuing our support and partnership moving forward into 2019.”

Fighting Blindness offers the following Top Five Tips to Protect Against AMD:

1.      Symptoms: look out for straight lines appearing wavy or distorted, e.g. a door frame. If you see a smudge, gaps or dark spots appearing in your field of vision, or have difficulties in reading small print, even with glasses, or difficulty in recognising faces, then make an appointment with your eye doctor, optometrist or GP as soon as possible.


2.      Risk groups: if you’re over 50, get yourself checked out. If you have fair skin, light eyes, high blood pressure, or have been exposed to prolonged periods of sunlight, then you should also have regular check-ups.


3.      Healthy diet: eat a diet low in saturated fats and rich in omega 3 fatty acids (oily fish and walnuts). Green, leafy vegetables (spinach and kale) contain antioxidants, eggs and yellow/orange-based fruit contain nutrients such as lutein, zeaxanthin and beta carotene – all work to protect the macula.


4.      Vitamin supplements: certain nutritional supplements containing vitamins C and E, zinc, copper, lutein and zeaxanthin can slow down the progression of AMD in people already showing signs of the condition.


5.      Get moving and stop smoking: every week we should engage in 150 minutes of medium-level activity such as brisk walking, swimming and light jogging.


For more information on the work of Fighting Blindness, visit

For more information on the MIST support group for people affected by AMD, visit


Issued by:

Amanda Kenny, Fighting Blindness

Tel: 01 6789 004




1 The Cost of Sight Loss Report. NCBI, 2011

2 Prevalence of age-related macular degeneration in the Republic of Ireland. British Journal of Ophthalmology 2015; 99:1037-1044. Akuffo KO, Nolan J, Stack J, et al

3 Lancet Global Health. 2014 Feb; 2(2)


About Age-Related Macular Degeneration:

AMD is a painless condition that affects a tiny part of the retina called the macula, located in the back of the eye. Damage to this area can make central vision distorted or blurry and can lead to difficulties with coloured or detailed vision. Over time it can cause dark patches in the centre of vision, leading to problems with everyday activities such as reading, watching television, recognising faces and driving. However, it is important to note that the severity of the condition can vary and most people with AMD still keep their peripheral vision. There are two types of AMD – dry AMD and wet AMD:

  • Dry AMD is the most common and the less severe of the two. It develops gradually over time, causing vision to become blurry, but does not affect peripheral vision. Unfortunately, right now there is no treatment available for this type of AMD.
  • Wet AMD is less common and begins when new blood vessels grow into the macula and start to leak under the retina causing swelling and scarring, and leading to dark patches in central vision. There are good treatments available for this type of AMD which can help to save as much sight as possible. However, early diagnosis is important as if the damage is left for a long time or scarring has taken place, the treatments can be less effective.