What Do I Do? … My Doctor just told me I have Macular Degeneration

Most people found to have AMD are:

  • Over the age of 55
  • Have noticed changes in their vision
  • Have gone to an ophthalmologist or optometrist who found evidence of macular degeneration in their eyes.

Some of the initial changes to the eye caused by AMD are mild and do not require treatment. Your doctor will see small yellow areas of “drusen”, a German word for “bump”, in one or both eyes. This is known as “Dry Macular Degeneration”. Symptoms may include visual distortions, the need for more light when reading and a blurry or blind spot in your central field of vision. Side (peripheral) vision is not affected.

Images of wet and dry types of macular degeneration

The “Wet” type of macular degeneration is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood into the macula (the area of the retina responsible for central vision). Symptoms of wet macular degeneration are the same as the dry form but usually appear suddenly and get worse rapidly.

What to Do!
Ask your eye doctor if you should see an ophthalmologist who specializes in the treatment of macular degeneration or a retina specialist. Retina specialists are best qualified to decide if active treatment is needed and when to begin therapy.

Image of injection of anti-VEGF

Treatment for the active form of age-related macular degeneration is currently an injection of an “anti-vascular endothelial growth factor”, or “anti-VEGF”, into the eye. Injections may be repeated at 1 to 3 month intervals for some period of time depending on the response. Although this sounds painful, it is not … and very few people stop getting the shots because of discomfort.

Don’t Stop!
DO NOT PANIC or stop doing all that you need or want to do. Continue your job and hobbies! Vision Rehabilitation has training, techniques and devices that allow even those with severe vision loss to continue to function as they always have. From simple stronger glasses to advanced electronic devices, much help is available. Developments in technology in the last few decades have made this easier than ever. Ask your doctor for a referral to a low vision rehabilitation clinic. You will be glad that you did!

Summary … “What Do I Do?”

  • If you are a smoker, STOP! Smoking increases the chances of continuing “active” AMD with bleeding and vision loss
  • See your primary doctor for control of blood pressure, cholesterol and general health
  • Exercise. Ask your primary doctor about this.
  • Eat a diet rich in green leafy vegetables.
  • Consider taking vitamins. There are some preparations specifically for people with ARMD. Ask your eye doctor about this. There are guidelines and the vitamins are high in antioxidants.
  • When outside, wear sunglasses with UV and blue light protection and a hat with a visor or broad brim.
  • If your vision is affected, see a vision rehabilitation specialist or clinic
  • If your eye doctor advises, look at an Amsler grid. (see MAGNIFIER Issue #117 for details).
  • See your eye doctor and retina specialist as often as advised or sooner if your vision changes

Joe Fontenot MD, CLVT
Medical Director, Community Services for Vision Rehabilitation – 600 Bel Air Blvd, Suite 110, Mobile AL 36606

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