“Because I have macular degeneration, does that mean I will go blind?”
Patients often ask how Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) may affect their vision in the future. To some degree it is normal to see some findings in the retina consistent with ARMD in the population of patients over 60 years old.
Small yellow drusen (deposits under the retina made up of lipids, a fatty protein) and changes in pigmentation of the macular area are very common. This is called the Dry form of ARMD. This can be stable for years and decades. Patients can have perfectly normal vision with this. We do recommend a daily supplemental vitamin, but I try to emphasize that this can be normal and it doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to have significant vision loss in the future.
Some people remember a grandmother who lost most of her vision in her 80’s and they fear this future for themselves. Many of the worst cases of ARMD involve the “wet” form in which vessels grow quickly into the macula. They swell and bleed and damage the center vision. If the visual changes are noticed early with symptoms of decreased visual acuity, visual distortion or missing blind spots, then are discovered on eye examination, treatments can help to slow or halt this damage to the central vision.
Overall health plays a role in aging of body tissues and the eye is no exception. Healthy diet, body weight and avoiding smoking are likely to reduce one’s risk of future vision damage from ARMD.
- R. Scott Hoffman, MD