BrightFocus Foundation and Vision Loss Advocacy Groups Partners Declare December 5 as World Geographic Atrophy Day
WASHINGTON (Dec. 5, 2023) – BrightFocus Foundation, in partnership with three other global vision loss advocacy organizations, has declared Dec. 5 as World Geographic Atrophy Day. The date was chosen to represent the 5 million people worldwide living with geographic atrophy, which is a leading cause of vision loss.
Studies suggest that geographic atrophy could be responsible for up to 20% of cases of legal blindness. Research predicts there could be more than 18 million cases of geographic atrophy worldwide by 2040.
Geographic atrophy is the dry, advanced form of age-related macular degeneration. It harms the macula, the central part of the eye, responsible for detailed vision. As geographic atrophy progresses, damaged areas called lesions grow, which may lead to a permanent hazy spot in the center of vision. Other common symptoms include missing or distorted spots in central vision; poor night vision; central vision loss or black spot in central vision; straight lines that look crooked; and difficulty seeing in low or dim light. A dilated eye exam is the first step to diagnosing geographic atrophy.
BrightFocus offers a range of free, educational resources on geographic atrophy and macular degeneration, including a dedicated webpage, expert articles, treatment information, and a fact sheet (available in English and Spanish).
Certain risk factors increase a person’s chances of developing dry macular degeneration and geographic atrophy, including being older than 60; having a family history of macular degeneration; smoking or having smoked in the past; being obese; having light-colored eyes; spending a lot of time in the sun; eating a high-fat diet and/or a diet low in nutrients and antioxidants; and inactivity. Caucasians are more likely to develop geographic atrophy than Black or Hispanic individuals.
Beyond affecting vision, geographic atrophy impacts quality of life by potentially disrupting the ability to read, drive, and recognize faces. This can result in challenges related to self-confidence, independence, and overall mental health and well-being.
“Geographic atrophy robs people of their ability to live independently and experience many of life’s special moments,” said BrightFocus President and CEO Stacy Pagos Haller. “In addition to funding innovative research across the globe to better diagnose, treat, and ultimately cure geographic atrophy, we are proud to offer a range of free, educational resources and outreach programs to help those living with low vision regain their independence and improve their quality of life.”
To better support and connect people with low vision, BrightFocus offers several resources, including a virtual community group, monthly accessible audio chats with doctors and vision experts, and resources in Spanish.
About BrightFocus Foundation
BrightFocus Foundation is a premier global nonprofit funder of research to defeat Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. Through its flagship research programs — Alzheimer’s Disease Research, Macular Degeneration Research, and National Glaucoma Research — the Foundation has awarded nearly $290 million in groundbreaking research funding over the past 50 years and shares the latest research findings, expert information, and resources to empower the millions impacted by these devastating diseases. Learn more about the research we fund and read about the breakthroughs made possible through our grants around the world.
World Geographic Atrophy Day was declared in partnership between BrightFocus Foundation, Fighting Blindness Canada, Macular Society, and Prevent Blindness and is supported with funding provided by Apellis Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Visit www.worldgeographicatrophyday.org to learn more about geographic atrophy and how to get involved.
Guest speakers Rob Howden and Diane Marshall are both currently living with geographic atrophy, the advanced form of dry macular degeneration. Listen to a firsthand account of daily living with geographic atrophy and discuss the importance of diagnosis.