Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the leading cause of legal blindness in patients over age 65 in the United States. It is estimated that, during the next five years, over one million Americans will go on to central blindness from macular degeneration.
There are two major forms of macular degeneration: atrophic (dry) and exudative (wet). 90% of all macular degeneration is the dry form, but 90% of all legal blindness from macular degeneration is due to wet macular degeneration.
There is no cure for macular degeneration, and once vision is lost there is no regaining it. The goal of current treatments is to stop the progression of the sustained damage. Here are some tips for living with the damage that has occurred and for preventing further damage.
Making Life Easier
Use your senses. It is common knowledge that when one of our senses is not working correctly, the other senses adapt and become sharper. Get creative with the different ways your other senses can compensate for poor vision. For example, you can:
- Listen to books on CDs or online.
- Distinguish the clothes in your closet from one another by their texture.
- Use a finger to determine how much of an ingredient is in a measuring cup.
- Put a certain number of rubber bands or raised stickers on objects to help you identify them. For example, your keys, beauty supplies, or cooking ingredients.
- Buy a watch that beeps, chimes, or says the time out loud.
Look around. Macular degeneration affects central vision the most. The solution is to learn how to best use peripheral vision. One way to learn how to use peripheral vision is to pick an object directly in front of you, and then look left, right, up and down until you find the spot in your vision where the object is the clearest. Practice using peripheral vision until it becomes natural.
Bigger is better. Many books are available in large print and for those that are not, a magnifying glass can be helpful. Technology can be a big help too, as computers and most phones have options to increase font size.
Lighten Up. Macular degeneration may cause your vision to darken. Keep some kind of additional light source nearby to help with tasks like eating, getting dressed, going up the stairs and using a computer. The light source could be an extra lamp, a flashlight, or even the light on a smartphone. You can also turn up the brightness levels of your computer and phone. Avoid lighting that causes glare on your computer screen, as that can make seeing the content on the screen more difficult.
Preventing Further Damage
Wear sunglasses with 100% ultraviolet protection. Everyone should wear sunglasses whenever they’re outside, not just those currently suffering from macular degeneration. Wearing sunglasses with the right level of UV protection will prevent more damage to the macula and it will also help prevent other problems such as cataracts and cancer.
- Vegetables and fruits are packed full of healthy vitamins. Aim for veggies that are rich in carotenoids like spinach and fruits that are packed with vitamin C; both are great for eye health.
- Fish have DHA, the same fatty acid that is found in your retina, and eating fish can help maintain healthy amounts of that fatty acid.
- Almonds and other nuts contain vitamin E and zinc, which can help protect the membranes of the cells in eyes against damage.
Exercise. Regular exercise has all kinds of health benefits. Exercise can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight, as well as lower your cholesterol. It can also lessen the risk of forming or worsening macular degeneration.
Visit your doctor. Early detection of macular degeneration can be a key factor in delaying the loss of vision. Once macular degeneration has occurred, it is important to monitor vision loss through regular check-ups and possibly through the use of an Amsler grid.
Macular degeneration is a common issue plaguing millions of Americans. However, it doesn’t have to make life hard. For those with macular degeneration, it is important to stay positive, take on challenges as they arise, and never be afraid to ask for help. If you believe you, or any of your friends or family might be at risk for macular degeneration, seek a doctor for a consultation as soon as possible.
Want to find out more?
At Williamson Eye Institute, we are committed to preserving and protecting our patients’ eye health throughout their lives. To find out more, visit our website or call our office to schedule a personal consultation. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.