'Giving up driving was hard. A part of my independence had gone' 

Barbara Watson talks about how age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affected her.

"I found out I had macular degeneration when I went to the optician for some new glasses. The optician examined my eyes and bluntly told me: 'You've got macular degeneration, but don't worry, you won't go completely blind.' 

"It was a horrible surprise. My mother had macular degeneration, but it hadn't occurred to me that I might also have it one day. The signs had probably been there, but I hadn't noticed them. I'd been doing a lot of numerical work and was having problems reading the numbers 6, 8 and 3. I had to concentrate very hard not to get them muddled up.

"At first it wasn't too much of a problem. My right eye was affected, and it stayed that way for three years. But when I began to get macular degeneration in my left eye, I had to give up driving. That was hard because a part of my independence had gone. Luckily my husband drives, so I can still get around, but it was a difficult time.

"In the last few years, the condition has progressed more rapidly. I've had to give up a number of things I really liked doing, such as calligraphy and tapestry. Reading has become difficult, so I now listen to talking books. I've also been in some embarrassing situations where I've passed friends in the street and not recognised them. 

"I always tried to hide it from people, but lately I've started using a white stick when I'm somewhere that's busy or unfamiliar. At first I wasn't keen on using a stick, but once I got over the embarrassment I've found that it's helpful because people do get out of your way.   

"I'm still a steward at the local museum, and I've also joined a walkers group, which is great fun. When I joined the Macular Society it opened up lots of new doors and I've done a lot of fundraising. I've written about my feelings in two books of poems, which have both been published. That's been lovely. And I help my husband with the gardening when I can, although last week I dug up the sage instead of the mint – so it can be a bit hazardous sometimes!"

Page last reviewed: 24/08/2015

Next review due: 24/08/2017