My Macular Degeneration Timeline
The timeline for macular degeneration progression is different for everyone, but numerous studies give us general guidelines. Mine didn’t quite follow all of the guidelines, thankfully.
My macular degeneration timeline and journey
At the early age of 58, I received my first diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration. That’s a scary thing to think back on, 17 years later. Other than my age, it was no surprise as my mother had lost her central vision to dry AMD. I had also been a smoker, one of the most modifiable risk factors for it.
I was first diagnosed with cataracts
I had gone to my optometrist for a new prescription for glasses, but he explained my hazy, blurry problems were caused by cataracts which do not warrant a need for new glasses. The halo effect around headlights and the almost double or “ghost” vision are symptoms of cataracts, but why am I experiencing this at my age? As it turns out, my topical cortisone use for a lifetime of eczema was the culprit.
Next came an early-stage MD diagnosis
Another surprise hit me when the ophthalmologist said I needed to see a retina specialist before the surgery. This new specialist then explained I had a very early stage of macular degeneration and to just keep an eye on it, but that I could move forward with the cataract surgery. I ended up having 2 surgeries and both were successful.
Continuing with routine check-ups
The next 12 years were mainly uneventful as I went to my required annual examinations and took AREDS2 supplements. My vision remained the same throughout this time. Then at age 70, the next surprise announcement hit.
My AMD progression
My optometrist used his new OCT machine when I went for my annual visit. I was his first patient to be tested with it and he wanted to go over my pictures in greater detail, so he said he would call me later with the results. Imagine my shock when he called to tell me my AMD had advanced to wet! I had no symptoms, no wavy lines or smudges, and no changes in my vision. Thank goodness I had kept up with those visits!
Warning signs of my progression
I had the large fluffy drusen and knew that about 1 to 3 out of 100 people with small drusen experience vision problems within 5 years, but about 50 out of 100 people with larger drusen have late-stage AMD and vision loss within 5 years.1 There I was 12 years later with no symptoms, no vision loss, so it should have come as no surprise.
An immediate referral to my wonderful retina specialist was followed by an Avastin injection the next day. He told me it had thankfully been discovered very early.
How I'm doing now
Now, at age 75, and numerous injections later, I can still see well enough for the important things. I prefer to read using inverted colors on my iPad, but with decent lighting, I still read printed works. I still feel safe driving, although I do not drive at night when in an unfamiliar area. My main issue is that I usually need more light.
Perhaps I’m one of the lucky ones, but 17 years of macular degeneration with very little loss of vision sounds good so far.
What about you? How has your timeline gone?
Do you feel that you've maintained independence with macular degeneration?