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Living with Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Grandmother reading with her two grandchildren.

More than 2 million Americans live with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and continue to conduct their daily activities independently. There are a many things you can do to optimize your remaining vision and maintain your quality of life while living with AMD. 

Low Vision Rehabilitation  

Low vision is a collective term for vision loss that cannot be reversed by glasses, contact lenses, medication or surgery. Even mild levels of visual acuity loss can affect the ability to perform everyday activities. Most patients who seek low vision services have only mild to moderate visual impairment.

  • Low vision devices. Low vision devices are products, such as microscopic or telescopic systems, magnifiers, tinted lenses, computer accessibility, video magnification/closed-circuit television systems and nonoptical devices that help you remain independent as you conduct your regular daily activities.

  • Vision rehabilitation plans. A vision rehabilitation plan teaches you how to build compensatory visual skills, develop new ways to perform daily living activities and adjust to your changes in vision.

Create a Safe Home Environment

  • Lighting. The intensity, color and direction of your lighting can make a big difference in both productivity and safety. Too much or too little lighting can be a problem for people with AMD. Increased sensitivity to glare is a common issue for people with low vision. Sunlight and natural lighting seem to work best, but you should experiment with what works for you.

  • Organization. It is helpful to organize most frequently used items, such as keys, glasses, and bathroom and kitchen items, by putting them in the same place. You can also develop a system for grouping and storing clothes and food items. Creating large-print labels or stickers for things like medication or appliances can also help maximize your independence.

  • Functional Spaces. The layout of your home can contribute to your safety and quality of life. Here are some things to consider:

    • Arrange your furniture to create clear pathways of movement.

    • Remove doors or ensure that they are always fully open or closed to prevent injury.

    • Ensure area rugs are all skid-proof or properly secured.

    • Install railways on both sides of all staircases; consider skid-proofing stairs.

    • Install grab bars in the bathroom or shower, and near the toilet, if possible.

    • Replace worn tiles or carpeting to prevent tripping or falling.

    • Use brightly colored tape to mark light switches, outlets, thermostats or other important fixtures.

More Information About Safety from Johns Hopkins Medicine

Older Adults: Preventing Falls

Every year, millions of adults fall, with most falls occurring in the home. Falls are the leading cause of emergency room visits for older adults and the leading cause of death for adults over the age of 65. Certain safety measures can be taken to help prevent many falls.

Read more

Rely on Other Senses and Peripheral Vision

People with low vision are often surprised by how much they can increase their quality of life and independence by relying on their other senses and their peripheral vision.

  • Hearing. Fine-tuning your hearing can empower you to complete your daily activities with confidence. You can listen to books on tape or work with text-to-speech systems and screen-reader software to access printed material that may be challenging for you to see. Recognizing people by their voices or asking people to state their name when they approach you will help you sustain social interactions.

  • Touch. Relying on your sense of touch can be helpful in a multitude of practical ways. By focusing on shapes and textures, you can identify things such as clothing, food or other necessary household items. Your sense of touch can also be extremely important in navigating unfamiliar spaces, such as walkways or stairs. If your vision impacts your mobility, a cane or walker can be an extension of your hands, and your feet can become “feelers” for safe movement.

  • Eccentric viewing. Maximizing the use of your peripheral (side) vision can be a helpful tool in maintaining quality of life. Relying primarily on central vision can be a hard habit to break, but there are ways to locate your best vision and begin using it. Low vision occupational therapy can assist in determining whether or not you can benefit from using this technique during everyday activities.

Ask for Help

While it is important for you to be receptive to making personal changes to accommodate your low vision, it is also essential that you recognize you are not alone. Maintaining your independence and quality of life is a team effort. Some of your team members may include:

  • Physicians, visual rehabilitation specialists, low vision occupational therapists and other health care providers

  • Family and friends

  • Community volunteers

  • Support groups

Openly communicating your needs is essential to receiving the help you may need. It will ensure that your support network understands what challenges you are facing so that people can optimize the help they offer. Never be afraid to ask for help.

Consult your doctor for more information about healthy living with age-related macular degeneration.

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