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Losing My Sight to Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

My Story

I am losing my vision to a thief called AMD, or age-related macular degeneration. I am the third generation in my family and the youngest to be diagnosed with AMD. I was diagnosed at the age of 52. There is no treatment for this thief that is stealing my vision—no magic pills, no surgical cure, no action I can take to stop the thief. At best, I can fight to slow him down but in the end, he will win.

It's been said that you don't appreciate what you have until it's gone. I didn't appreciate my vision when I was young. But now, well, it's beginning to sink in that I'm losing it. Time has become more precious than ever. I am a visual person—one who loves nature, one who can spend hours looking for images in the clouds, one who sees natural landscapes as God's artistry. I am the person who loves color and can lose myself in the colors of a sunset. I am the one who sees who you are before you tell me who you are. It's in the eyes, and I am losing mine.

AMD Defined

Wikipedia defines AMD as an eye disease that causes loss of central vision due to retinal damage.

The American Macular Degeneration Foundation describes it as an incurable eye disease that it is the leading cause of blindness for those aged 55 and older in the United States, affecting more than 10 million Americans.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) generally defines AMD as a common eye condition among people age 50 and older that gradually destroys the macula, which is the part of the eye that provides sharp, central vision needed for seeing objects clearly.

What they are all trying to say is that AMD steals the part of your vision that allows you to recognize faces in a crowd or read the labels on the grocery store shelves; and that there is nothing you can do about it. Well, you can't cure it, but there are things you can do. We'll talk about that later.

My AMD Symptoms

I'll speak from personal experience because this is what I know with certainty. My relationship with macular degeneration has evolved. We are not friends. I won't pretend that I will ever be okay about having this disease. It is a silent thief; one that sneaks up on you and does its damage before you can chase it away. When I began having trouble reading the newspaper, I blamed it on my Type II diabetes. Blurred vision is a symptom of diabetes and something that happens occasionally when my blood glucose is a little too high or low. I wasn't concerned.

A week or so went by and the vision was just off. Nothing looked really crisp or focused anymore, and everything seemed a little too dull. This was more than an out-of-balance blood glucose level, and I knew it. Since I hadn't seen my eye doctor for a while I made an appointment. After the usual preliminary tests, my eyes were dilated, and the doctor used his magic tools to look at the back of my eye. What escaped from his lips was shocking. One word, a simple word, but a powerful word. He said... "Wow." Then, he backed away and looked at me for a fraction of a minute before giving me the news. I had macular degeneration, and it was the worst he had ever seen in someone my age.

When he thought the dust in my brain had settled a bit, he went on to explain that there are two types of macular degeneration: the wet and the dry. The wet can be treated with injections or laser surgery to restore the loss of vision, but there is no treatment for the dry type. At best he recommended I start a strict regimen of vitamins from Science Based Health that are a blend of vitamins, anti-oxidants, and zinc. The doctor went on to explain that I would eventually lose my central vision. I would retain some peripheral vision, allowing me to manage in my living space, but I would eventually need help with detail work, such as reading and paying bills. This condition would also eventually rob me of my independence. At some point in the future when the disease had progressed, I would have to stop driving. That is my biggest fear.

Normal vs. AMD Vision

My Current Status

So far, so good. I have lost central vision in one eye but continue to have 20/30 vision in the other. I am able to manage all aspects of my day-to-day living with the help of glasses and magnifiers (in every room of my house). The image above demonstrates how my vision has changed. The "E" on the left is what I see with my good eye and the one on the right accurately illustrates how my affected eye sees things.

Although I have adapted, there is one very frustrating aspect of my current status. I can no longer see faces with my affected eye. It makes recognizing friends (and even family) very difficult and is sometimes embarrassing.

The loss of depth perception is also troublesome. Did you know you need both eyes to have accurate depth perception? I did not know this until I developed this condition. Again, you don't appreciate it until it's gone.

Straight lines are no longer straight. It is part of the disease. For those diagnosed with AMD, it is important to check your vision daily for significant changes. The recommended method is the use of the Amsler Grid (see image below). The Amsler grid is a box containing a series of lines. A normal-vision person will see the lines as straight. AMD causes the lines to be distorted, blurred, or even missing in some part of the grid.

Amsler Grid for Daily Testing

Where There Is Light, There Is Hope

For many of us with AMD, bright light and low-vision aids are tools that enable us to manage day-to-day tasks. What sustains us though is the hope that researchers will soon find a cure for this silent thief. Until that day, we cope as best we can, using tools that are available. It is reassuring to know that age-related macular degeneration will not render us totally blind. We will live with diminished vision and limited mobility. The journey into this blurred and sometimes fragmented world has taught me to appreciate every minute that I can see the sky, or the colors of the shadows on the mountains. A smile or twinkle in a loved one’s eye means so much more today than it did before my diagnosis. I have concerns for the future, but not fear. There is a difference.

To enjoy the colors and beauty of nature is a gift.  Don't wait until it's gone to appreciate it.
To enjoy the colors and beauty of nature is a gift. Don't wait until it's gone to appreciate it.

Hope for the Future

If there is anything I would say to someone with a new diagnosis of macular degeneration it would be this. Don't feel hopeless and do not think that a diagnosis means that you are going totally blind. That was my misconception for a couple of years.

For every day that you wake to view a sunrise, or end the day with a smile from your loving family, there are scientists working to find a cure for AMD. Put your efforts into living here and now—and if you want to do something, start advocating for more research funding. Most importantly, cherish each and every day. None of us knows what tomorrow may bring, and it can always bring something worse than AMD. Macular degeneration is not a death sentence, but it can be the catalyst for setting new priorities.

© 2012 Linda Crist

Comments 16 comments

moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

I'm sorry to hear you have Macular Degeneration. It's sad when you start to lose your eyesight. I don't have macular degeneration but I do have MacTel. My eye sight is going. I have learned to live with it but I don't like it. I cry when no one is around because of all things I hate to lose my sight.

Voted up on your hub.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Thanks moonlake. I am sorry to hear of your vision troubles too. I share your sadness and fear. Just try, as I do, to remember that there are scientists working to find cures for these things. Maybe it won't happen in our lifetimes but I have to believe that it might. Hugs to you!


Chin chin profile image

Chin chin 4 years ago from Philippines

Hi lrc7815. I like your attitude of hopeful expectation with regards to having AMD. In fact, whatever the adversity, people must have the same attitude. May God bless you with the strength you need from day-to-day.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Thank you so much Chin chin. I appreciate your sentiment.


Daughter Of Maat profile image

Daughter Of Maat 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

Irc7815 you echo the thoughts and feelings of so many patients with this disease. It is agonizing to say the least.

I don't know if anyone has recommended this or not, but megadoses of vitamin C (much more than is in the AMD vitamins) can help prevent AMD, and trigger the body's healing mechanism. Since AMD is an autoimmune disease, vitamin C helps correct the problem. I have a hub on vitamin C that explains how to find your correct dosage if you're interested. It's the one antioxidant that your body desperately needs because it is necessary to make collagen, the fibers that hold everything together. That includes the retina. It may not help your AMD eye, but it may protect your good eye!


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Thanks so much Daugher of Maat. I will check out your hub on Vitamin C. I am terrified of losing the good eye. Thank you!!!!!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Thank you for sharing this very personal experience of how macular degeneration has affected your life. For those of us who don't experience this condition, it's terribly hard to understand what you are going through.

My mother has the "wet" version and it is being treated surgically, every eight weeks. These procedures are the only things keeping her eyesight. But even then, it's hard to say what her vision is.

Your descriptions of what you see, or don't, are so helpful to me. My mom can't / won't describe her vision. I see only what she does with her vision, like trying to cut rice with a fork and knife when she thinks it's meat. I think you know what I mean.

As you, my mother is waiting for the next development in treatment. It seems as though this next development is on the horizon, just out of reach.

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Sherri, I hope the treatments are helping your mother. You do not appreciate your vision until you begin to lose it. Mine is progressing rather rapidly and I am stunned by what I cannot do now. The loss of depth perception is the most profound. We recently celebrated a family birthday and the entire family laughed at me when I could not light the candles on the cake. I tried but I couldn't calculate the depth between the match and the candle wick. I am now paying for pedicures because I cannot clip my own nails without clipping the ends of my toes. Your mother's reluctance to speak of her difficulty is understandable. Losing our independence is emotionally very difficult and to admit it, makes it even more real. I wish your Mom the best success possible. Thank you for sharing her story and for reading my hub.


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 3 years ago from USA

As I get older, one of the things I worry about is loss of my eye sight. My mother had AMD, but it progressed slowly, and she still had enough vision to be able to read when she died at age 90. Your article is a wonderful explanation of AMD and your positive attitude is infectious. Here's hoping for research breakthroughs in the very near future! Voted up and sharing with followers!


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 3 years ago from Maui and Arizona

I, too, am sorry to learn you are living with this disease. Yet your writing is positive and inspirational. I did not know until I read your hub that AMD causes diminishing sight but not total blindness.

I have an aunt who is 85 years old and has had this condition for about 15 years. She has always been a fantastic gardener and still is. She has made adaptions like you and stays busy, even sending and receiving emails to keep in touch -- just with bigger font.

The beautiful photograph you chose really sums up your positive and realistic attitude. Voting up, awesome and sharing.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Linda you are a truly amazing lady. After reading your hub praising your fellow hubbers after your pity party, I find this hub. Really? Girl, you are entitled to have a once a week knock down drag out, anything you want party! But, that's it...once a week only. The rest of the time you have to keep up the amazing outlook and faith that you show in this hub.

Your fortitude and kindness and caring are, I hate to repeat myself, but, they are amazing, like you. May God hold you in the palm of his hand and provide you with all the blessings and strength you need each day. May he watch over you and help you to remain the wonderful person you are.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.


mperrottet profile image

mperrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

I'm so sorry that you've been diagnosed with this disease, but I believe that your hope that they will find a cure in the future is well founded. I looked on-line, and there are many organizations that are doing promising research. I'm sure you've looked into it yourself, but for anyone reading this article, here's a site that looks interesting:

http://www.brightfocus.org/research/grants/mdrcurr...

Voted up, useful and interesting.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 3 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Hi Stephanie. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your Mom's encouraging story. How wonderful that she could still read at her age. Life is a mystery and all we can do is enjoy each moment we have. I appreciate the vote and your sharing.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 3 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Pamela, thank you for the visit and comment. How wonderful that your aunt is still enjoying her hobbies. The computer is such a great tool for those with limited vision. Attitudue and adapting is the key. I appreciate yur sharing.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 3 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Mary, my friend, you are far too generous with your compliments. I hesitated sharing this one on the heels of the pity party because I don't need or deserve sympathy. I am honestly so blessed with support and great friends. And, I love life so I have no excuse for letting a few challenges get me down. Thank you for you loving support and prayers.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 3 years ago from Central Virginia Author

Hello mperrottet ! Thanks for the visit and for doing the research. That is a wonderful sight you provided in your link. Yes, there is much research being done and that is why there is hope. I appreciate your concern and investment of time. And, your vote too.

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