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Living With Vision Impairment: Dry Age Related Macular Degeneration

Updated on June 3, 2013
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Linda lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia. She is losing her eyesight to Macular Degeneration.

Imagine that everything you see is only a partial image of the reality.
Imagine that everything you see is only a partial image of the reality. | Source

What the heck is it, this dry AMD?

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is defined as an eye disease generally diagnosed after age 60 that progressively destroys the macula. The macula is the central portion of the retina, and when it is diseased, central vision is impaired. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) rarely causes total blindness because only the center of vision is affected. That's the good news.

The bad news is that loss of the central vision from dry AMD affects almost every aspect of daily living and there is no treatment or cure...yet. Here we are only talking about dry AMD.

Dry AMD is the invisible disability.

Why is dry AMD an invisible disability?

Dry AMD is an invisible disability because in a crowd of 10 people, it is impossible to tell who has dry AMD and who does not. But ask those same 10 people to do something as simple as writing their name on a blank sheet of lined notebook paper. One look at the signatures will give it away. Unless you have two good eyes, depth perception doesn't exist. Depth perception is the ability to judge depth or the relative distance of objects in space and to orient one's position in relation to them. The signature of a person with dry AMD will run outside the lines and will most likely be sloppy and slanted.

So, what can't you do if you have lost your central vision to dry AMD?

  • You can't recognize faces in a crowd. (They'll swear you just didn't want to speak.)
  • You can't judge the distance between you and the car in front of you when driving.
  • You can't drive on unmarked pavement. (It's hard enough on marked pavement.)
  • You can't read traffic signs. (You get used to the sound of screeching brakes.)
  • You can't see oncoming traffic when turning into an active lane.
  • You can't groom your own toe and fingernails. (It's a great excuse to be pampered.)
  • You can't light a candle on a birthday cake. (You'll be more entertaining than the birthday clown if you try.)
  • You can't apply mascara without sticking the brush in your eye. (I know you guys don't care about that.)
  • You can't thread a needle. (You won't live long enough to do this.)
  • You can't fill out a form. (Now this one is humiliating, especially if you're applying for a job.)
  • You can't plug in an appliance. (you'll get it eventually if you keep trying)
  • You can't read small print on prescription mottles, food packages, cleaning products, etc.
  • You can't chop vegetables. (Get the bandaids out before trying.)
  • You can't read restaurant menus without bright direct light.
  • You can't read LED displays without a magnifying glass and light.
  • You can't distinguish numbers and letters like 6 from 8, g from q, r from n, 2 from 5.
  • You can't shave yourself.

Okay, sometimes you can do some of these things but you have to be very careful and, there's a good chance you're going to hurt yourself. But these are just some of the day to day activities that become very difficult or impossible when the central vision goes.

What else should you know?

This is the most important thing to know and is the catalyst for this piece.

When you are diagnosed with dry AMD, talk to your doctor about how severe your disease is. If your physician thinks you will lose your vision (even in one eye) to dry AMD, go to the Social Security Administration website and file a claim for disability. Explain in the notes that you are not requesting to receive benefits but that you want a medical determination. Here is why:

From the moment you file an application with the Social Security Administration, you lock in to your benefits and the amount you will receive (even if you don't take benefits until you are 62) will be based on your last 15 year wage history.

What if you don't file for a medical determination and for some reason you lose your job and have to start over with a lower paying job?, your benefit will be reduced due to the lower wage being calculated into the 15 year work history.

Regular social security benefits (at age 62) are calculated on the last 35 year wage history.

What else do I need to know?

Losing your vision to dry AMD is profoundly personal. All the things you once did without thought have become so much harder and in some cases, impossible. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

The best approach is to tell your friends and family of your situation. Help them understand how the world looks through your eyes. Unlike other diseases that leave tell-tale physical signs, AMD is invisible to everyone but you. People will be much more considerate of your situation and, helpful, if they understand.

Dry AMD can have huge social implications as you lose your ability to recognize people in crowds. Don't retreat into the safety of your home. Get out there with someone who can be your eyes and have a good time. You do not have to be depressed over what you've lost. You just have to devise a new approach. And you can.

Next, do some Internet shopping. There are hundreds of websites that sell assistive devices to make life full and easier. Do some research. You're not the first to be in your situation. Learn from those who have been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and, wrote the book. There's a trick to help you do just about anything. You just have to have the desire. Go for it!

© 2012 Linda Crist

There is Hope on the Horizon!


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