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My Dry AMD Progression Journey

I want to begin by looking at the years before I was diagnosed with dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Growing up in the south, my diet was heavy on fried foods and simple carbohydrates. Fresh fruits and vegetables were not readily available. By adulthood, I was overweight and seldom exercised. I was unaware I was damaging my eyes by not wearing sunglasses. By my late 20s, I started smoking and developed high blood pressure.

Now I know that my lifestyle choices likely played a role in the development of AMD.

My optometrist noticed something unusual

A few months after cataract surgery and YAG laser treatment for removal of a secondary cataract, I noticed my vision was a little blurry. I scheduled my annual dilated eye exam.

The optometrist said he saw something unusual. He recommended I have an optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan. The scan revealed the presence of large, fluffy drusen. My diagnosis was early stage AMD. He told me it usually progressed slowly, and he would check it again in a year.

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The early stage of dry AMD

Over the next year, I researched dry AMD. I knew a lot about the wet form since both my mom and sister had it. I learned that the kind of drusen a person has is significant. The large, fluffy drusen I have put me at an increased risk for wet AMD.

I read about the AREDS2 supplement and started taking them on my own. I only took 1, since I didn’t bother reading the label.

By the next eye exam, I knew enough to be concerned. Though my exam showed I was still in the early stage, I insisted on a referral to a retina specialist. I am glad I did. I learned about the proper dosage for AREDS2, and that they are not usually recommended for the early stage. I also learned about the Amsler grid and the need to check for progression between appointments.

The intermediate stage

My retina specialist diagnosed intermediate stage during my biannual visit. By this time, my blurred vision was much worse.

Over time, other symptoms started. I noticed distortion, and colors began to fade. I also experienced falls caused by lack of depth perception. When I closed my left eye, lines appeared wavy. I also developed a gray spot in my central vision.

The intermediate stage was marked with frustration. I needed more light, and a magnifier was essential. Cooking was especially hard. I couldn’t read the recipe or see the markings on measuring cups.

I love all sorts of crafts. One by one, I gave them up, except for reading. To continue reading, I bought the largest iPad and iPhone available. The accessibility features are excellent, allowing me to enlarge text and reverse the background color.

The advanced stage: geographic atrophy (GA)

The advanced and final stage of dry macular degeneration is called geographic atrophy, or GA. I was diagnosed with early stage GA in July.

Now, I notice my left eye no longer compensates for the right. I see wavy lines and greater distortion. For now, I can continue driving in the daytime in familiar surroundings.

A glimmer of hope

There are now 2 injectable medications that are FDA-approved for GA. My doctor did not recommend I start treatment with Syfovre because of side effects. A second medication, Izervay, was recently approved. I am hopeful I can begin treatment soon.

I am aware that these medications cannot restore lost vision. At this point, I would be overjoyed to preserve the vision I have left.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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