Living with Macular Degeneration

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2024 | Last updated: June 2024

Living with vision loss caused by macular degeneration can be hard. Continuing to work and enjoying a rich social life with friends and family can require finding new coping methods. Fortunately, various tools can now help people with macular degeneration maintain their independence.1-4

The day-to-day impact of macular degeneration

Macular degeneration is an eye condition that affects the center of the retina. It causes the center point of your vision to blur. Over time, this loss of vision may spread. The condition does not cause complete blindness. But a lack of central vision can severely affect your ability to do everyday tasks.4

Because the center of vision is blurred with macular degeneration, you may be unable to see faces, read, drive, or perform other common tasks. As vision loss worsens, you may become less and less able to carry out activities such as work or much-loved hobbies.1,4,5

The emotional impact of macular degeneration

Along with the physical impact of vision loss, people with macular degeneration may have a range of emotions. There is no “right” or “wrong” response to the diagnosis.4,5

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You may feel sad, angry, frustrated, and isolated. You may also feel a lot of stress around the uncertainty of how the condition will progress. All of these feelings are normal, and there are many tools available to help.4,5

Healthy ways to cope

There are a number of professionals and practical tools available to help you adapt to living with macular degeneration.

Assistive devices

Several devices and tools can help you navigate life with loss of vision. The ones that work best for you may depend on the extent of your loss and personal preference.

To assist with reading, some people find large-print books useful. Others prefer audiobooks. Magnifying lenses and computer technology are other options. There are also specialized clocks, kitchen scales, and other devices that are made to be easier to see.6

Make sure that the lighting in your living areas is bright enough. Some people also find that stronger contrasts between light and dark (for instance, painted walls) can help to make things easier to see.6

Occupational therapy

An occupational therapist can teach you ways to manage daily activities by using your other senses. For example, they can teach you how to identify coins when shopping, as well as easy ways to identify things around the home. If a cane or guide dog is necessary, they can also help you learn to use them.4

Support groups

Speaking to other people living with macular degeneration can help you to know that you are not alone. Support groups can also connect you with other people experiencing vision loss. Often, they can give valuable advice about how to adjust to a new way of life.2,4

Counseling

A counselor can help you deal with some of the confusion, anger, and grief that arise from a macular degeneration diagnosis. They can also suggest tools and methods to try as you adjust.4,7

Ways to slow vision loss

There is no cure for macular degeneration, and there is no definite way to stop its progression. But there are some things that might help to slow vision loss and protect your eyes from damage:4,7

  • Wear sunglasses. These provide important protection from damaging ultraviolet (UV) light.
  • Stop smoking, and avoid secondhand smoke. Cigarette smoke can damage blood vessels and reduce blood flow to your eyes.
  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of essential vitamins and nutrients. This can help to boost and maintain your overall health.
  • Consider taking supplements. The Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2) found that a combination of certain supplements can delay the onset of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Ask your doctor whether these supplements are right for you.

Do not lose hope

If you have been diagnosed with macular degeneration, a wide range of tools can help you adapt to and cope with the condition. Ask your doctor and eye specialist about the state of your disease. Ask them what changes you can expect as the disease progresses and how you might be able to slow the progression.

Your care team can help you learn how to make tasks more manageable so you can concentrate on enjoying your life.