Learning that you have age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can be very worrisome for you and your family. You’ll have questions about the disease, how to manage it, and how to cope with vision loss. The best way to adapt to vision loss is to learn new ways of doing things.
Visual Rehabilitation for Macular Degeneration
Visual rehabilitation can help you adjust and function better with your remaining vision, although it cannot restore vision that has been permanently lost.
- Begin by letting your eye doctor know what kind of limitations you are experiencing because of your vision loss.
- The doctor can then prescribe optical devices, such as magnifiers. Learn more about other low-vision aids in Helpful Resources.
- Your doctor may refer you to a vision rehabilitation center, an eye clinic, or other organization where a low-vision therapist can work with you to help you adapt and make personalized recommendations for daily living activities.
Your Other Senses
Listening to books on tape and CDs and using listening skills more may seem difficult at first but will become easier over time. Most people with low vision are surprised to find out how much information they can obtain from their senses of hearing, touch, and even smell.
Listening more means remembering more. Most people never fully develop the ability to remember what they hear because there is no need. Improving listening skills means giving full attention to what you hear rather than dividing your attention between what you see and what you hear.
Those with low vision may still receive visual cues from eyesight, but they will need to shift more and more of their attention to listening. As you grow more accustomed to listening to books, newspapers, and magazines through audio devices and working with screen-reader software, you’ll gradually remember more of what you hear.
You can learn to tune in to your sense of hearing in many practical ways to help with daily activities. For example, learning to locate the sound of the hum of the refrigerator can signal that you are entering the kitchen. Hearing the sound of cars and other outside street noises indicates an open window and its location.
Those with low vision can also learn to rely more on the sense of touch in many practical ways. Selecting clothes from the closet, for example, will be easier if a person focuses on the textures of fabrics and associates them with mental pictures of certain garments.
If you have severe vision loss, using a cane or walker outdoors helps you use the sense of touch to get more information about the environment. These “feelers” will help detect changes in the pavement, the closeness of objects, and the presence of stairs. Even without a cane or walker, using your feet to feel your way, especially when climbing or descending stairs, can support your diminished vision and prevent dangerous falls.
People spend a lifetime depending primarily on central vision, and this habit can be hard to break. However, for those with macular degeneration, their best vision probably lies somewhere in their peripheral (side) area of sight. If you have macular degeneration, you must make a conscious effort to locate this area and use it as fully as possible.
To find the best area of peripheral vision, place a brightly colored object directly in front of your eyes. Face the object and look up, down, left, and right. After practicing a few times, you’ll likely find a spot in the peripheral area that is less fuzzy than the rest of the field. Once you find this area, it will take practice to learn to favor this area. You may need to turn your head slightly away from the object to be seen, which may feel unnatural at first.
In the beginning, practice using your peripheral vision for several minutes at different times of each day, resting the eyes between each interval. It takes time to learn to see with peripheral vision, but if practiced consistently, this new way of looking will become habitual.
Protection from the Sun
For details on how to best protect your eyes from sun damage, see Recreation and Quality of Life.
Theresa Mabe shares her story and coping strategies for living with myopic macular degeneration.