Living with Age-Related Macular Degeneration
These days when I look in the mirror, my face seems to be fading away. Iíve known this could happen for the last 20 years.
I was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) when I was just 39. At the time I had never heard of this disease. Why should I have? AMD was a disease typically diagnosed in people over the age of 55. I was far too young for it to be on my radar.
It was at a routine eye exam that my early onset AMD was discovered. I hadnít even noticed any loss of vision yet. My doctor had little information to give me and as I would learn, there was little information available anywhere. All I knew at that time was I was now living with the looming threat of blindness.
How long would I be able to drive, for example? That was my first question, and one no one could answer.
I began talking to researchers, left my job as a lawyer, and founded the American†Macular Degeneration Foundation. It became my mission to provide others with the information I was gatheringóto create a resource people could turn to.
For the next 20 years, my vision stayed relatively stable. I was able to slow the progression of the disease through lifestyle ó the things I learned through my work with AMDF.
But then, a few months ago, I started noticing a changeÖ
The features on peopleís faces were becoming indistinct, unless under a bright light ólike those faces in the Degas etchings I had seen at a recent exhibit.
Sure enough, at my six-month check-up I was told my left eye had deteriorated from 20/30 to 20/70. My right eye was still 20/20 with my glasses.
I wonít lie, it can be hard to remain optimistic in the face of this, or any, incurable disease. But at this point, through all my work with the American Macular Degeneration Foundation ó after years of talking to researchers, doctors and people diagnosed ó Iíve learned that AMD isnít a life sentence without parole.
The news of this recent deterioration in my vision was not surprising or devastating this time, the way the original diagnosis had been 20 years ago.
I now have the internal and external resources to know Iím not going to go blind tomorrow. I know many people with AMD would be thrilled to have the quality of vision I still have. And I know what I need to do next:
- I will start taking my eye supplements again after going on a couple year hiatus.
- I will continue eating foods that contain essential nutrients for the eyes.
- I will continue with my regular eye check-ups.
- I will continue to wear UVA/UVB blocking sunglasses when I go out.
- I will marvel at how far the technology has come since my diagnosis, such as information ophthalmologists can glean from Electroretinography tests to diagnose and track retinal disease.
- And I will be grateful.
†Grateful I can still drive. Grateful I can still read (now that I no longer practice law, itís okay if I skip over the fine print). Grateful for what I can still see. Grateful for the work I do.
Chip Goehring is the founder and president of the American Macular Degeneration†Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to the prevention, treatment and cure of†macular degeneration through raising public awareness, funds and supporting scientific research.†