NHS urged to act quickly to help prevent elderly people losing their sight

The NHS has been urged to act quickly to prevent elderly people with a serious eye problem from losing their sight.

New guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) aim to improve care for patients with suspected late stage macular degeneration.

The Macular Society estimates that more than 600,000 people across Britain are affected by age-related macular degeneration (AMD) - which happens when changes occur in the retina that affect sight.

This can hinder a person's ability to perform day-to-day tasks such as driving, reading and recognising faces.

The new Nice guidelines say that people with the suspected later stage of the disease in its worst form - known as wet active AMD - should be referred to a macular service quickly.

And patients with confirmed late AMD should be given anti-vascular endothelial growth factor drugs within 14 days of referral to the specialist service, Nice said.

This involves drugs being injected into the eye which can prevent the abnormal growth of blood vessels which cause the deterioration in sight.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the Centre for Guidelines at Nice, said: "AMD can be a life-changing condition for people if it is not identified early on.

"There are around 26,000 new cases of wet AMD in the UK each year and if left untreated, over half will become visually impaired or blind within three years.

"Therefore the need to provide timely diagnosis and treatment is important."

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