Answer: This is something I’m familiar with since the agency I work for provides training and services to many individuals who have this condition. Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss for Americans 65 and older.
When the macula becomes damaged, a blind spot develops in the central part of the visual field. Depending on the extent of the damage, this blank spot can be relatively small or take up most of the central field. The earlier the condition is detected, the better the chances are to keep it from getting worse. While younger individuals can have macular degeneration, this is a problem most commonly found in older people. While the condition can affect anybody, you’re more likely to develop Mac-D if others in your family have it. Your odds increase if you have blue eyes. You also increase your risk of developing Mac-D if you smoke.
There are two types of macular degeneration. The milder type is “dry,” so named because there’s no bleeding involved, although the macula has deteriorated. There is little that can be done for dry macular degeneration at this point, although a diet rich in green leafy vegetables and a vitamin supplement with Lutein can help keep it from getting worse.
The “wet” form of Mac-D involves blood vessels within the eye rupturing and bleeding into the eye. The blood will dissipate eventually, but in the meantime it will interfere with vision. While these vessels will heal, the new vessels will be much weaker and more likely to rupture again.
Wet macular degeneration can now be treated with injections that help prevent future bleeding. While this isn’t a cure, it slows down the process so; hopefully the condition doesn’t get worse. It’s important to note that macular degeneration only affects the central, not the peripheral vision.
A person with Mac-D will not become totally blind, although they may reach a point where they can no longer read regular print, drive a car or perform some routine tasks without modification.
There is training available to help your mom use her remaining vision and to show her other ways to do things non-visually. Please ask your mom to call the Somerset County Blind Center at 814-445-1310 for additional information on our services, which are free of charge.
Our thanks to the reader who asked this question. Here’s where to send your inquiries:
At Your Service, Rob Stemple, Daily American newsroom, P.O. Box 638 Somerset, PA 15501 or email email@example.com.
Rob Stemple is Community Outreach and Rehabilitation Liaison for Somerset County Blind Center (SCBC); a Division of the Susquehanna Association for the Blind and Vision Impaired (SABVI). SCBC is working to make our community more aware of the relationship between diabetes and vision loss.
Watch for info on this growing health problem in “At Your Service” each week. People at high risk of diabetes should have their plasma glucose levels measured by a health professional to detect impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance, both of which indicate an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
(Contact Rob Stemple at 814-445-1310 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.)