Deidre Hall isn’t really a doctor; she just plays one on TV. But now the actress, who has played Dr. Marlena Evans on Days of our Lives since 1976, is speaking out on a medical matter that is very close to her heart: wet age-related macular degeneration (Wet AMD).
Wet AMD affects more women than men and it’s the leading cause of vision loss in people over 65. During Low Vision Awareness Month (Feb.), she’s sharing the personal story of her mother’s journey of blindness, caused by Wet AMD. It is her hope to shine a spotlight on this and other vision-related conditions in order to inspire others to get regular eye checkups, which would result in early diagnosis.
“I think we should all have concerns for ourselves,” Hall tells Parade.com. “People tend to confuse wearing glasses with what AMD is. Age-related macular degeneration is a disease, and 1.5 million people in the U.S. are impacted by it, and it causes blindness. So, it’s a huge issue for people. As we all go through what would I rather lose, my ability to speak, my eyesight, my ability to hear, you always land on what would I do without my eyesight, and to take it for granted is a serious mistake.”
The good news is that regular eye checkups can lead to treatment. At the time that Deidre’s mother got the diagnosis, treatments weren’t available, but now there are treatments that, while not a cure, can control the disease and help people retain their sight. So what should people watch for? What were the symptoms that her mother experienced?
“My mother had blurriness from the center of her vision, which is a dead giveaway,” Hall says. “Another symptom is seeing wavy lines or blind spots, or seeing colors that are all washed out. If you have those symptoms, get to your eye doctor immediately.”
For more information, check out the website looktoyourfuture.com.
We also spoke to Hall about her time on Days of our Lives. Check out the interview below:
After all these years, on Days, I would say that you have earned the right to be considered the Doyen of Daytime. What is it like to know that you’ve made a lasting mark?
You know what? It doesn’t feel like that to me. What it feels like is the honor of being invited back. We now have a key card that we use to let ourselves into the security gate, and every morning when I drive through, I hold my breath for just a moment, thinking, “Is it going to work today?” So, longevity is the highest compliment. It’s lovely to be invited back; it’s even lovelier to be given a heavy storyline to carry. What it means is I get to come back and play with my friends every day, which is just a joy.”
You mentioned being given a heavy storyline. In this era of peak TV, there’s a lot more roles for women over 40. Do you think that change has made it into soap operas as well, which used to focus on young love?
You know the history of soap operas. We have a full spectrum of generations. So, it’s our job to train the young people, because so often they’re so young they come to us not knowing what they’re doing. We train them how to find their light, how to find their camera, how to make a turn…whatever it is. There’s just a million lessons in daytime. People say, “Oh, it’s a great place to learn your craft.” No, it’s not. That’s like being thrown in the deep end if you’ve just been born, but it’s a great place to have people that have honed that craft to help you learn it.
There are only four soap operas left. What do you see as their place in 2019?
You know, greater minds have to work that out. I think those on the air are pretty solid. We’re all going as fast as we can to make them affordable to produce. We shoot three weeks a month and take a week off. So, it’s a balancing act of budget and of production: How good can we make it, for how little money?
I understand you’re playing a second character, like Marlena’s doppelganger, somebody who went to prison?
I played Hattie for about six months, a great joy of my life. Hattie was my sister when she was on the show, and she is an irreverent, mouthy, sassy, spunky character. At one point they had asked Hattie to pretend to be Marlena because Marlena was in a coma. Don’t ask. But I got to play her for about three weeks, and I got to throw things at people and it was fun.
Days of our Lives airs weekdays on NBC.