A woman is staring ahead to a traffic light. Her vision is blurry and the colors are not clear.

No Longer Stable – What’s Next?

I was diagnosed with early dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) at age 66. It didn’t come as a big surprise since both my Mom and sister had wet macular degeneration. I began bi-annual visits to a retinal specialist.

For the next 4 years, I noticed very little change in my vision. Then I began having blurry vision similar to when I developed a secondary cataract a few months after cataract surgery. A visit to my optometrist resulted in a diagnosis of chronic dry eye. My eyes often felt dry and irritated after cataract surgery.

Is this progression?

Over the next 3 years, my vision continued to worsen. In addition to blurring, I developed double vision in my left eye. My depth perception resulted in more than a few falls. I thought surely these symptoms were the result of progression. My retinal specialist reassured me at each visit that the results of the optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan were unchanged from the previous scan. I knew something was happening with my vision, but no one could tell me why my vision was so blurry.

Difficulty with driving

I saw my retinal specialist in March of this year. As usual, I had an OCT scan followed by a visit with my retinal specialist. When asked how my eyes were, I told him about my worsening symptoms.

I was especially concerned about my difficulties driving. With double vision, oncoming cars appeared to have double sets of headlights and were misshapen. Fading colors made traffic lights hard to distinguish until I got very close to the intersection. Construction zones are hazardous since I have to be very close to a flagman before I can read signs.

Listen to the signs

After listening to my account, Dr. Pratt said, “Your eyes are trying to tell you something." Tell me what, I asked. He replied, “About your driving.” Since I meet the eye exam requirements for my state, he didn’t say I can’t drive. I promised him I would limit my driving to short trips in familiar areas.

Dr. Pratt brought the OCT scans up on the computer and showed me the big changes from my last visit. I was no longer stable. I was shocked when he said my right eye indicated atrophy. He said he now wants to see me every 4 months. Still in shock, I left the office without asking any questions. What happens now? How long before it becomes geographic atrophy and total loss of central vision?

When asked about clinical trials, Dr. Pratt told me there were several trials for intermediate dry macular degeneration, though none were going on without traveling at least 200 miles.

Life goes on

After the shock wore off, I researched some of the clinical trials for intermediate dry AMD. I was intrigued by one testing turmeric. I am already taking 1 pill a day for arthritis since turmeric is anti-inflammatory.  I have increased my dosage to 2 pills daily and buying high-quality supplements. I realize the turmeric may not help my eyes at all, but it’s one small thing I can do without any risk to my health.

I am making a list of questions for my next visit. One thing I want to ask about is testing for zinc sensitivity. I have faithfully taken my AREDS2 vitamins, eaten the recommended diet, worn sunglasses, etc., and still progressed faster than anticipated. Is it possible the AREDS2 vitamins are making my eyes worse? While waiting for my next appointment, I am switching to a formula without zinc.

Editor's Note: As of August 2023, 2 drugs known as complement inhibitors — Syfovre® and Izervay™ — have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat geographic atrophy (GA).

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