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A woman looks at an amsler grid with her doctor

Dry Macular Degeneration and Progression

As my dry age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) progresses I think about what I’ve done to be prepared. Have I done enough? What if my vision changes quickly – could I cope? And it certainly has changed quickly this past year.

Handling my diagnosis

I was diagnosed 7 or 8 years ago. I hadn’t really been surprised when I was diagnosed, because my mother had the dry form and my father had the wet form.

It was still a blow, though, because suddenly there was a big “uncertainty” in my life that hadn’t been there before. The future looked a lot different, but I wasn’t sure how that would pan out.

Coping through the years

Over these years I really wasn’t having any problems. I did have a bit of trouble adjusting to darker environments. If I came in from outside and tried to find something at the back of a cupboard, or the back of a closet, I had some difficulty.

I found I couldn’t see as well at night or in the rain. It dawned on me that I had gradually stopped driving after dark unless it was in very familiar territory.

But this was so minor that it wasn’t a worry. Progression was very slow. I think I was lulled into a false sense of security in these early stages. I took my AREDs2 supplements and ate my greens and tried to get more exercise.

Recent changes

These last 12 months or so have been different. There really has been progression. I see wiggly lines and blank gray spots on the Amsler Grid with each eye.

Amsler Grid changes

The first time I noticed this, my retinal specialist asked me to take 2 spare grids home and circle the areas where I saw gray spots or wiggly lines. I did this, and the next visit she tried to match up the "bumps" she saw on the optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan with my areas of concern on the grid.

I’m finding the grid quite troublesome now. There are wiggly lines and light gray spots with both eyes, but if I move the grid off the refrigerator and over to a window, the gray spots decrease or disappear. Extra light obviously makes a difference. Sometimes I’m not sure what to do. This isn’t an exact science.

“Is that an extra splotch on the grid?” I say to myself, as I clean my glasses again, "hopefully". I would definitely make an appointment if I saw a dark patch or a real change in the wiggly lines. What I think I’m seeing now is a gradual progression, and not a marked, sudden increase of problem areas on the grid.

What it all means

This progression means that I now see vertical blinds or doorframes with a wiggle most of the time. In my bedroom at night, I realise there really is a blank spot in my centre vision in both eyes. I think it improves if I stay awake long enough for my eyes to adjust a bit more to the dark. That experiment never lasts very long because I go to sleep!

I haven’t switched to e-books yet, but I’m amazed when I pick up a novel at the library or bookstore and I think to myself “Have they always printed books in such a small font?” I think the answer is “Yes,” it’s just that I can’t read it easily anymore, even with glasses.

What's next?

With the progression that’s happening, (and my issue with cataracts) I decided that obtaining a second opinion was the way to go. I have an appointment with a highly regarded retinal specialist in the city soon. It will be very interesting to hear what he has to say.

In the meantime, I think to myself “Get a move on, Wendy! Keep doing all the things you need to do to make life easier if your sight gets worse!” Progression means just that! There is no time for complacency.

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