Dame Judi Dench opens up about her ‘bad’ condition – symptoms

Judi Dench reflects on some of her ‘special’ acting roles

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Dame Judi Dench has worked on both stage and screen since the late 1950s. Back in 2012, the acting legend was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, or AMD for short. While this condition doesn’t cause total blindness, it makes everyday activities like reading and recognising faces tricky. However, the 87-year-old said she won’t let this “bad enough” condition stop her remarkable career, despite not being able to see properly.

Labelled a national treasure, Dench has opened up about the eye condition that runs in her family during an interview with Louis Theroux for BBC Two.

When asked about her acting plans for the future, she said: “I’m not doing anything much at the moment because I can’t see.”

She explained that this decline in her vision is caused by age-related macular degeneration that her mother also had.

According to the NHS, this “common condition” targets the middle part of your vision and usually first affects people in their 50s and 60s.

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AMD can make anything from reading to driving difficult, with symptoms including:

  • Seeing straight lines as wavy or crooked
  • Objects looking smaller than normal
  • Colours seeming less bright than they used to
  • Seeing things that are not there (hallucinations).

The James Bond star explained that her AMD is “bad enough” and it makes her eyesight “fuzzy”.

She even recalled a dinner party, where she couldn’t see what was on her plate. Dench said: “I went to a dinner a few weeks ago – a rather important dinner.

“It was so dark that I said to David, who was next to me, ‘Have I anything on my plate’?

“He said ‘Yes’ and I said ‘Does it need cutting up’?

“He said ‘Yes’ and I said ‘Would you do it’?

“He handed something to me on the fork and that’s the way I ate. I don’t even know if I finished it.”

Reading lines as well as spatial awareness are extremely important for a theatre star like Dench. However, she’s not letting her condition stop her from acting endeavours.

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Dench told Theroux: “I’ve got to teach myself a new way of learning because I have a photographic memory.

“So, a person saying to me ‘This is your line’ and I can do that, and I have many people who will help me. Nevertheless, I realise 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.”

Dench had also revealed in a previous interview that she now also prints all of her scripts in 22-point font and takes a friend to the cinema so they can tell her what is going on.

She said: “On my scripts, my font is point-size 22, so you can imagine… if we’re doing a sonnet of 14 lines, all the others will have one page and I’ll have 14!

“It’s ridiculous, it’s a farce, but I’m not going to give in.”

Fortunately, the acting royalty is not planning to retire any time soon, despite her failing eyesight.

There is currently no cure for AMD but treatments and various visual aids may help patients to carry out daily tasks, depending on what type of AMD they have and how bad it is.

From eye injections to a light treatment called photodynamic therapy, there are different interventions that could help stop your vision from getting worse, according to the NHS.

Dench added: “I’m not going to be beaten by my eyes for instance. I have macular degeneration, which means treatment every six weeks, but you just have to settle for it.”

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