LONDON, February 17 /PRNewswire/ --

- Almost Half of People Aged 50 or Over Admit to Knowing Nothing About Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

- With Photos

People in the UK are at risk of losing their sight as 44 percent know nothing about the country's leading cause of blindness,(1,2) Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). The results of a new survey of over 1,000 people aged 50 or over revealed that there is confusion around the symptoms and risk factors of AMD.(1)

AMD affects over half a million people in the UK(3) however nine out of 10 people could not identify the key symptoms of AMD correctly; blurred vision, distortion of straight lines and blind spots. In addition, many did not know what increases the risk of AMD with many (70 percent) unaware that smoking is a key risk factor.(1)

Ophthalmologist Mr Kevin Gregory-Evans from Western Eye Hospital and Imperial College London said; These are alarming findings which mean that thousands could be vulnerable to late diagnosis. In some cases this could lead to avoidable sight loss. I strongly urge people who experience any of the symptoms of AMD, to visit their Optician or GP without delay. I also recommend regular eye health checks with their Optician.

AMD is more likely to affect people aged 55 or over(4) and its prevalence is increasing with the ageing population.(5) People can often mistake early symptoms as a 'just a part of growing older' meaning that AMD can often remain undiagnosed and in many cases, is only detected when people have lost a significant amount of sight. Half of people with AMD experience visual impairment severe enough to be registered as blind or partially sighted. (2)

A new campaign, 'be AMD aware', has launched today to encourage people aged 55 or over to familiarise themselves with the symptoms of AMD and to have regular eye health checks. The campaign is brought to you by Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd and supported by the Royal National Institute of Blind People. Print adverts with the tagline 'Don't turn a blind eye to AMD' and TV advertising will be appearing across UK and the website is available as a first port of call for all those looking for information on AMD.

AMD has a serious impact on the quality of people's lives - either through the gradual deterioration of dry AMD or rapidly with wet AMD. Patients often feel that simple things like cooking, using the telephone, and watching the television become difficult. Importantly, no longer being able to drive has a profound impact. Life becomes restricted; people lose some of their independence and have to rely on others much more. We hope the 'be AMD aware' campaign helps more people realise they need to look after their eye health, have regular eye checks and be vigilant to the symptoms of AMD, to catch it early. commented Sonal Rughani, Optometrist from the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Notes to Editors

About AMD

AMD is an eye condition that affects people aged 55 or over and is the leading cause of blindness in the UK.(2,4) AMD can often remain undiagnosed and in many cases, is only detected when serious loss of visual function has occurred. However, sight loss is not inevitable - early detection and referral for assessment may prevent unnecessary vision loss.(6)

There are two types of AMD, the dry form and the wet form.(3) Whilst the dry form can result in a slow gradual loss of vision, the wet type can be far more dramatic with marked symptoms of distortion(7,9) especially noticed on straight lines, such as door frames. Both types can result in a significant loss of vision.

- Risk factors include; increasing age, smoking, family history of AMD, Caucasian ethnicity, cardiovascular disease.(7,8) - Symptoms include; blurred vision, distortion of straight lines, blind spots and loss of central vision.(7,9)

The 'be AMD aware' Campaign

Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd. has launched the 'be AMD aware' campaign, which is supported by RNIB, to encourage people aged 55 or over to familiarise themselves with the signs of the condition and have regular eye health checks. The campaign will also provide Opticians and GPs with more information on AMD, to enable them to identify and refer patients with the signs of AMD for swift and accurate diagnosis. For more information about AMD, visit .

About Novartis

Novartis AG provides healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Focused solely on growth areas in healthcare, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines and diagnostic tools, and consumer health products. Novartis is the only company with leading positions in these areas. In 2007, the Group's continuing operations (excluding divestments in 2007) achieved net sales of USD 38.1 billion and net income of USD 6.5 billion. Approximately USD 6.4 billion was invested in RD activities throughout the Group. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 98,200 full-time associates and operate in over 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit .

About the Survey

This study was conducted via telephone by Harris Interactive among a total of 519 adults (aged 50 or over) within the UK between 22nd November and 12th December 2008. Figures for age, sex and region were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. An additional 504 interviews took place in 5 UK cities; Glasgow, Newcastle, Cardiff, Liverpool and Manchester.

Pictures accompanying this release are available through the PA Photowire. They can be downloaded from or viewed at or .


1. Harris Interactive. Survey of Over 50s conducted November - December 2008

2. Owen CG et al. Br J Ophthalmol 2003; 87:312-317

3. Last Accessed 16.12.08

4. AREDS Research Group. Arch Ophthalmol. 2001; 119(10): 1417-1436

5. Klein et al. Ophthalmol. 1992; 99:933-943

6. Haddad WM et al. Br J Ophthalmol 2002; 86:663-669

7. Jager RD et al. NEJM 2008; 358: 2606-2617

8. Vingerling JR et al. Epidemiol Reviews 1995; 17:347-360

9. de Jong PT. NEJM 2006; 355;14:1474 -1485

Media contacts: Rita Martins, Weber Shandwick, Tel: +44-207-067-0210, Email: . Novartis Communications UK: Tel: +44-7767-410238