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What To Know When First Diagnosed

How little we knew when we were first diagnosed with AMD.  More importantly, how little we were told!  Many of us stumbled out of that eye doc visit totally scared and confused. I know I did and it shouldn’t be that way. So I will attempt to write this short article and highlight some areas it would have been nice to know.

What should you know?

If you’re experiencing symptoms or have been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, you’re not alone. Here’s what you should know about it.

Risk factors:

  • Diagnosed most often for those over 60
  • A family history of AMD
  • Smoking and poor diet increases AMD risk
  • More common if you are white
  • Prior heart and blood vessel issues
  • Low macular pigment

Symptoms

  • Visual distortion
  • Increased blurriness of printed words
  • Increased difficulty adapting to low light conditions
  • Decreased intensity or brightness of colors
  • A blurry or blind spot in your central field of vision
  • Loss of central vision

Types of AMD

Dry AMD

  1. The most common type of AMD
  2. Formation of “drusen,” small yellow deposits under retina

Wet:

  1. Late stage AMD
  2. May progress more quickly than dry
  3. Causes blood vessels that grow under the retina and leak

Living with AMD

OK, so now what do we need to know?

  • Manage medical conditions to reduce oxidative stress
  • Reduce smoking as it also contributes to oxidative stress
  • Maintain a healthy diet with foods high in carotenoids (dark leafy greens, colored fruits, eggs, etc.)
  • Including omega-3s in your diet
  • Take a doctor-recommended eye supplement to replenish your macular pigment
  • Experiment with different kinds of lighting to make reading a more comfortable experience
  • Utilize low vision aids, magnifier's, electronic book readers, etc.

Treating AMD

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for dry AMD, however, there are methods to manage progression. Treatment for wet AMD consists of anti-VEGF therapy.

Supplements

A carotenoid supplement is a doctor-recommended management method for those diagnosed with or at risk for AMD. Studies show a reduction in the rate of AMD progression by replenishing macular pigment levels through supplementation and diet. About 90% of Americans are not receiving enough carotenoids in their diet.

Anti-VEGF therapy

Injections that may reduce new blood vessel growth or swelling under the macular area of your retina. Studies have shown that these injections improve vision in 1 out of 3 patients, and at least stabilize vision in 9 out of 10 patients.1

Definitions

Defining a few things:

  • Macular pigment: (MP) is a generic term used to describe the yellow pigment (not to be confused with drusen) composed principally of the three isomeric carotenoids meso-zeaxathin (MZ), lutein (L), and zeaxanthin (Z) which accumulate in the macula
  • 2

  • Drusen: yellow or white deposits of cellular waste and proteins that are not disposed of or recycled by the body. Drusen collect under the retina between two layers of the eye called RPE (retinal pigment epithelium) and Bruch’s membrane.3

You're not alone

So there you have it! Who was told all this stuff when you were first diagnosed? Not many or near enough is my guess. I hope the article wasn't too “sciencey” and boring.

Just know if you are newly diagnosed that this disease is a slow mover. You may have years or even decades before your central vision is affected. It's been 9 years since I was diagnosed with wet in one eye and dry in the other and I am still in play. I still drive (daylight only), read (on devices primarily), and watch TV. So relax and breathe, you're gonna be alright. And we’re here for you anytime you have a question or just need to vent.  

Wishing you all well on our shared journey.

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