Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common eye condition and one of the leading causes of vision loss in adults age 50 and older. If you have been diagnosed with AMD, it’s important to know there are many services to help you in the coming years. Here, St. Barnabas Health System discusses this eye condition and what life may be like after diagnosis.
Understanding Age-Related Macular Degeneration
AMD causes damage to the macula, a small spot close to the center of the retina, affecting the part of the eye that’s needed for central vision. Central vision allows you to see what’s directly ahead of you. For most people with AMD, the disease is a slow progression and you may still be able to partially see using your peripheral vision. While you may still be able to do many of the tasks you enjoy, this vision loss may eventually meet the definition of legal blindness. There are two types of AMD:
- Wet AMD (advanced neovascular AMD): This condition occurs when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina begin to grow under the macula, leading to fluid leakage. Over time, this causes damage and can result in a large, central blind spot.
- Dry AMD (atrophic AMD): As the macula thins, it gradually causes blurry central vision. This type of AMD is more common and often affects both eyes. The progression is typically slow but eventually leads to central vision loss.
As the condition progresses, you may notice several changes in your vision. The symptoms of the disease may make it harder for you to recognize familiar faces. It can also limit your ability to read, drive, and perform other daily tasks.
While there is no cure for AMD, the good news is there are several treatment options available for aging adults. These treatments may prevent severe vision loss or even slow the progression of the disease overall, helping you to retain your eyesight – and independence – for as long as possible.
Living with Vision Loss
If you have been diagnosed with AMD, know that you and your doctor will be monitoring your condition together. Your provider will help you understand your condition and any unique challenges you may face as it progresses. They may recommend certain dietary supplements, lifestyle changes, and specialized treatments, such as:
- Anti-VEGF injections: This medication may help some people regain some of the vision they’ve lost due to wet AMD.
- Photodynamic therapy (PDT): A less common treatment, PDT may be used along with anti-VEGF injections to help break down the blood vessels that are causing vision loss.
- Laser therapy: Using high-energy lasers, your provider can destroy actively growing abnormal blood vessels.
Rehabilitative programs are also available. From environmental modifications to developing new skills, there are several ways occupational therapists can help aging adults make the most of the vision they have and find new ways to perform daily tasks.
Maintaining Your Health
Making regular eye exams part of your senior wellness plan can help ensure you’re diagnosed early enough and have ample time to prepare for the later stages of this disease. It’s important to also realize the mental impact of this type of diagnosis. If you or a loved one is feeling overwhelmed, mental health professionals can help you find ways to cope during this difficult time.
Get Help from St. Barnabas Health System
Serving the greater Pittsburg area, including Allegheny, Beaver, and Butler counties, St. Barnabas Health System offers a host of resources for aging adults experiencing AMD and other conditions. For more information, contact us today