Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when there is damage to the macula, the part of the retina that allows clear central vision. Many strategies can help people adapt to life with the condition.
AMD causes loss of central vision, making it difficult to see faces, read, drive, or perform close-up tasks. Vision loss can impact a person’s physical and mental health. It can increase the risk of falling and may lead to loneliness, anxiety, and fear, according to the
This article examines ways to adapt to life with vision loss and where to find help if needed. It also discusses vision rehabilitation, environmental adaptations, assistive devices, and how to protect the eyes.
Vision loss has an emotional and practical impact. It can affect a person’s ability to perform daily activities required for independent living. This may take an emotional toll, leading to:
However, there are methods to cope with vision loss. The Braille Institute of America suggests these steps:
- learning about and understanding the condition causing vision loss
- talking with family and friends
- considering counseling to help process life changes and work through any grief caused by vision loss, if needed
- considering low vision rehabilitation
The American Academy of Ophthalmology lists resources for people with low vision. These include audiobooks and magazines, large print materials, technology, and support organizations.
A few of the organizations specific to AMD include:
- The American Macular Degeneration Foundation: 888-622-8527
- The Macular Degeneration Foundation: 888-633-3937
- The Macular Degeneration Partnership: 888-430-9898
- The Macular Degeneration Association: 855-962-2852
- The Association for Macular Diseases/Ophthalmic Edge
- MD Support: 816-588-7747
Doctors may also have a list of local resources people can access.
Vision rehabilitation aims to help people adapt to life with reduced vision and maintain independence. It covers a
- employment and job training
- assistive devices
- technological devices
- independent living skills training
- counseling or support groups
- household services
A doctor can help determine appropriate vision rehabilitation services and set up a referral. People can also seek out vision rehabilitation on their own. Some websites that list these services include:
- The Rehabilitation Services Administration
- The American Optometric Association
- The American Academy of Ophthalmology
Developing the other senses
Developing the other senses may help with adapting to vision loss. According to the BrightFocus Foundation, people who experience it may be surprised to discover how much information they can obtain from their other senses.
It states that people generally divide attention between what they see and hear. When someone loses some of their vision, they may need to listen more intently. Sharper listening can provide clues to a person’s location in the house, on the street, and in relation to others.
Focusing on listening may also help improve a person’s memory.
People with low vision often learn to rely more heavily on touch to navigate the world. A cane or walker may help with locating objects and recognizing the presence of steps or other changes in the walking surface. Feeling textures and shapes can help people recognize clothing items and some foods.
AMD causes problems with central vision. However, peripheral vision, from the sides of the eye, is less affected. Although most people without vision loss are not in the habit of using peripheral vision, it is possible to learn to do so.
To locate the best peripheral vision, a person can hold a brightly colored object in front of their eyes and look at it, then look up, down, left, and right a few times. One area may be clearer than the others.
They can practice looking through this area of vision, which may require turning or tilting the head.
A person can adapt their home or other environments in many ways to maintain independence and remain safe with low vision.
Adaptations in the home include:
- placing furniture in ways that make them easy to navigate around
- setting up good lighting in walkways
- putting things away in consistent places that are easily accessible
- making shopping lists according to where foods are in grocery store aisles or using an online shopping service
- using contrasting colors, such as placing a dark bathmat on a light floor or light-colored sheets with a dark comforter
- marking appliance buttons and dials with bump dots to identify the most used settings
- considering using a medical alert system
Many assistive devices are available for people with low vision, including optical, nonoptical, and electronic options.
Optical devices include magnifying glasses worn on the face, hand-held magnifiers, and telescopes.
Nonoptical devices include:
- large-print books, magazines, playing cards, and checks
- watches, remotes, and electronic devices with large-size fonts
- needle threaders, magnifying mirrors, and tactile labels
Electronic devices include:
- video magnifiers
- smartphones and devices with high contrast, large text, and voice commands
- computers that read aloud the text on a screen
Many people only think about their eyes once they have a problem. However, eye health is part of overall health, and people can take
- having regular eye exams
- maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, as diabetes can cause blindness
- wearing protective eyewear and sunglasses
- avoiding smoking
- taking regular breaks when using screens
- practicing proper contact lens hygiene
AMD occurs when the macula sustains damage, affecting central vision.
Low vision can create practical challenges that may affect an individual’s independence. It increases the risk of falling and may make it hard to work and live alone. This can also have emotional effects.
Vision rehabilitation and assistive devices can help a person with AMD navigate the world and maintain independence. People can access them independently or via doctor referrals.