A Look Back at What the Stages of Dry AMD Were Like for Me

It’s been almost 10 years since I was first diagnosed with dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In June 2023, I was diagnosed with geographic atrophy (GA). The past few months have been a time of reflection on my journey as I grapple with an uncertain future.

The early stage of my dry AMD

My optometrist suspected I had macular degeneration during my annual eye exam. An optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan confirmed the presence of drusen in both eyes. I wasn’t too surprised, since my mom and sister were both receiving treatment for wet macular degeneration. 

My only symptom was a noticeable change in visual clarity. Images were not sharp. At this stage of AMD, I had no problems reading or enjoying my favorite hobbies.

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Because of my family history, I chose to see a retina specialist. He confirmed my diagnosis. Over the next 5 years, my annual scans were stable with no perceptible changes.

The intermediate stage

By the time my doctor told me I had advanced to the intermediate stage, I noticed a sharp decline in my vision. I found glare an issue, especially while driving.

A decline in depth perception led to some nasty falls. A few sessions of balance training with a physical therapist improved my balance. We practiced exercises with my eyes closed to help me learn to keep my balance as my vision worsens.

Another change was in my ability to see color. This change affected my ability to drive. Some days it’s difficult to see traffic lights. With only 2 traffic signals in my county, I can work around those intersections.

During the intermediate stage, I needed more light and higher contrast. I misplaced my phone frequently if I failed to place it on a contrasting surface. Entering my home on a bright summer day, I felt temporarily blind. It took a few moments for my eyes to adapt.

More life impacts of the intermediate stage

This stage had a huge impact on my daily life. Everything from hobbies to household chores required adaptations.

The biggest change was in my ability to read. Magnifiers were required for paying bills or reading instructions and labels. I needed more light in all my rooms.

With my left eye only, lines were wavy. I developed double vision in the right eye, which I noticed most while driving. Cars appeared to have 2 sets of headlights. With both eyes, I didn’t notice these distortions.

Progressing to geographic atrophy

My doctor says I now have mild GA in the left eye and intermediate in the right. At this stage, I have given up on my crafts and sewing. It was hard to give them up, but trying to continue led to much frustration.

I now read only on my iPad, where I can change the text size and background for better contrast. I bought ear buds and listen to audiobooks.

I am gradually replacing small appliances with WiFi-enabled ones for voice commands. I plan to replace my measuring utensils with those made for low vision.

I am still legal to drive in my state. I never drive at night, only during the day in familiar areas.

An uncertain future

I have no way of knowing how soon I will lose my central vision. I am encouraged that there are 2 medications approved to treat GA and slow progression.

I have accepted my new normal and feel blessed with a supportive family. I know I will be okay with whatever the future holds.

Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.
This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MacularDegeneration.net 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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