Long Term Thinking: Macular Disease
In the first of a new series on improving care for people with longterm health conditions, Dods Impact and AbbVie explore how improving Digital and Virtual Outpatient Services can help the 1.5 million people losing their sight as a result of macular disease
The macula is part of the retina at the back of the eye, responsible for our central vision. Diseases of the macular are a growing UK public health crisis, resulting in sight loss for 1.5 million people.
Although often associated with older people, macular diseases can affect people of all ages. One particular group that is impacted is people living with diabetes. In the
UK, 300,000 people experience Diabetic Macular Oedema (DMO). Without treatment, it is estimated that half of these patients will experience significant sight loss within 2 years.
“Macular disease is cruel and isolating,” explains Cathy Yelf, Chief Executive of the Macular Society. “Day-to-day we hear from people about the devastating impact it has on their lives, often leaving them unable to read, drive, or even recognise the faces of their closest friends.”
Marsha de Cordova MP, who Chairs the Eye Health and Visual Impairment APPG, lives with a long-term eye condition herself and is a long-time campaigner for better eye health. She says that the impact of macular disease can be “distressing and frightening” for patients.
“The impacts can be devastating,” de Cordova tells us. “Losing the ability to participate in the same work, hobbies, and social activities can be difficult adapting to and can put an immense strain on an individual’s emotional and mental well-being.” This challenge does not just affect individual patients who face sight loss. It also applies to the wider NHS itself. Rising incidence of macular disease means that ophthalmology has become the biggest outpatient specialist service in the NHS, at a cost of £2.6 billion each year.
“With an ageing population and a rising incidence of diabetes, we face a crisis in how we care for those who are at risk of developing macular disease,” Belinda Byrne PhD, UK Medical Director from biopharmaceutical company AbbVie tells us. “Once it develops, macular disease can be incurable and in some cases not even treatable. Finding