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Common Myths and Misconceptions of Macular Degeneration

Getting a diagnosis of macular degeneration can be nerve-wracking, and you may have some preconceived ideas about the condition or related eye conditions. There’s lots of information out there to wade through, and not all of it is correct. It’s important to address any incorrect information, both to properly inform people about the condition, and also to enable you to take control of your health and how it affects your life.

Understanding the truth

If you have any questions about the condition or what it means for you, don’t be afraid to talk with your doctor. They are trained and knowledgeable about the condition and can provide you with factual information and further resources on it.

For now, here are some common myths and misconceptions about macular degeneration.

Myth: Macular degeneration only affects older people.

While age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs more often in adults age 50 and over, there are some forms of macular degeneration that can affect younger people, such as Stargardt disease and myopic macular degeneration.1

Myth: You would know if you have macular degeneration.

In its earliest stages, macular degeneration is asymptomatic. Only when it progresses do symptoms appear. However, an eye doctor can see early changes that indicate macular degeneration before any symptoms appear, and can then provide you with tips on lifestyle changes that can help you preserve your eye health and potentially slow the progression of macular degeneration.

Myth: You will go blind if you have macular degeneration.

While you will most likely lose some vision, you may not go blind. Many people who are considered “legally blind” have some visual ability, and macular degeneration affects central vision most prominently, while peripheral vision usually remains intact.

Myth: There is nothing that can be done for macular degeneration.

While there is no cure for macular degeneration, there are various treatments that can be offered, depending on what kind of macular degeneration you have. There are also adaptive devices and lifestyle changes you can make to adjust to your changing visual field and abilities.

Myth: If caught early enough, I can reverse the course of macular degeneration.

Unfortunately, this is not true. There is no cure for any type of macular degeneration, and you can’t regain vision that has been lost or reverse the course of the disease. The AREDS and AREDS2 trials found that supplementation might help slow progression and reduce the risk of developing advanced AMD, but it doesn’t reverse the disease process.2 Lifestyle changes like lowering blood pressure, developing an exercise routine, and wearing sunglasses outside can help protect and promote eye health and reduce risk of advanced disease, but those factors do not restore any lost vision or reverse the disease itself.

Myth: No one in my family has macular degeneration, so my risk is low.

  • In Stargardt disease, there is a hereditary component to the disorder.
  • In myopic macular degeneration, your risk depends on the degree of myopia you have, and myopia does tend to run in families.
  • For both of these kinds of macular degeneration, although no one in your family might have macular degeneration, there is still a risk of developing the condition.
  • While there is also a hereditary component of AMD, there are also various risk factors that can increase your risk for AMD and it can also occur in anyone regardless of genetic predisposition. These risk factors include smoking cigarettes, eating a diet deficient in various nutrients and minerals, and high blood pressure.2

Reliable sources

While there is plenty of information about macular degeneration online, if you have any specific questions, it’s often best to ask your doctor. They knows you and your eye health history, as well as your specific diagnosis and where your vision is at right now. They will be able to provide you with honest, factual information and be able to quell any concerns or fears you might have.

Jaime R. Herndon | December 2018
  1. National Institutes of Health: National Eye Institute. Facts About Stargardt Disease. 2015. https://nei.nih.gov/health/stargardt/star_facts. Accessed October 17, 2018.
  2. National Institutes of Health: National Eye Institute: Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration. 2015. https://nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts. Accessed October 17, 2018.