Coping With Macular Degeneration

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If you have been diagnosed with macular degeneration (AMD) you are probably feeling worried about your future vision. Living with vision loss requires making lifestyle adaptations. Important aspects of life that are impacted include driving, reading, and conducting fine motor tasks that require a full range of vision, such as sewing and using tools.

Support and small changes can be helpful, not just to help you adjust but also to assist you with day-to-day tasks.

Emotional

A diagnosis of possible vision loss can be devastating at first. You might imagine a life of social isolation and a loss of independence. You may be frightened that you will lose the ability to engage in activities and hobbies you enjoy. You may feel scared and confused about your future.

However, researchers are making rapid progress in many areas of vision support and disease prevention. Some types of macular degeneration can be treated with certain injections into the eye, with photodynamic therapy, or with laser surgery.

While none of these treatments will cure the disease it is comforting to know that each may slow the rate of further vision loss.

Physical

Macular degeneration usually causes a slow, painless loss of vision. In some cases, however, vision loss can be sudden.

Early signs of vision loss from AMD include shadowy areas in central vision or unusually fuzzy or distorted vision. Your eye doctor may have you look at an Amsler grid to see if there is any distortion or lines missing.

While no cure exists for macular degeneration at this time, some treatments are available that may delay its progression or sometimes even improve vision. Your doctor may suggest taking a multivitamin, which may help prevent its progression to the wet, more severe form. Some studies also suggest that a diet rich in salmon and other cold water fish may help prevent the disease or reduce the risk of its progression.

Social

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recognizes the month of February as Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month. Macular degeneration, or AMD, is the nation’s leading cause of vision loss.

Each February, Americans over the age of 60 are encouraged to learn the warning signs of AMD and schedule an annual dilated eye exam. Eye doctors throughout the country try to suggest tools and resources that can help their AMD patients live a more independent life.

Practical

One thing you can do to help adapt to vision loss is to learn new ways of doing the things you do every day. Although your vision loss cannot be restored, your doctor will help you find ways to adjust and function better with your remaining vision.

Your eye doctor will ask you about any physical limitations you are experiencing, then prescribe optical devices to help you. An example of a helpful device is a magnifier, which enables you to increase the size of objects to help you view them more easily.

Your doctor may also refer you to a vision rehab center or an eye clinic in order to work closely with a low vision therapist. A low vision therapist can help you adapt to your changing vision and help with solving specific problems you might encounter with decreased vision.

A therapist might also help you to modify your environment to make it easier to navigate. In addition, he or she might help you to maximize your senses of hearing and touch, tweak your peripheral vision, and learn how to make use of low vision aids to help with daily life activities.

You an also make modifications to your home. Try these options:

  • Use overhead lights, task lights, nightlights, and extra lights on stairs
  • Mark the edges of steps with bright tape
  • Install and handrails on steps and stairs
  • Mark light switches and electrical outlets with bright tape
  • Keep walking areas open and clear
  • Use skid-free mats and grab bars in bathrooms
  • Use contrasting colors to mark the toilet seat, floor mat, bathtub, etc
  • Label medications with large-print stickers or tape
  • Remove interior doors
  • Make thresholds flush with the floor or carpet
  • Mark thermostat, oven and refrigerator with large-print stickers or tape
  • Mark computer keys with raised labels

It may take some time to get used to doing things in a different way, and you may understandably feel frustrated. Talk to somebody about these and vent if you have to. Eventually, you will figure out how to continue doing everyday tasks and hobbies.

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Article Sources
  • Boyd, Kierstan. "Macular Degeneration and Low Vision: Making the Most of Low Vision." American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), 13 April 2018.