Coping Skills & Self Care

Macular degeneration doesn’t affect your side (peripheral) vision and usually doesn’t cause total blindness. But it can rob you of your central vision — which is important for driving, reading and recognizing people’s faces. A low-vision center may be able to assess your visual capabilities and suggest certain optical and household devices that can be helpful for some near-vision tasks. Ask your eye doctor if there are any low-vision centers in your area.

There are ways to cope with impaired vision. Below are a few suggestions:

Use caution when driving. First, check with your doctor to see if driving is still possible based on your current visual acuity. When you do drive, there are certain situations to avoid. For example, don’t drive at night, in heavy traffic or in bad weather.

Seek help traveling. Use public transportation or ask family members to help, especially with night driving.

Travel with others. Contact your local area agency on aging for a list of vans and shuttles, volunteer driving networks or ride shares.

Get good glasses. Optimize the vision you have with the right glasses, and keep an extra pair in the car.

Use magnifiers. Large-print books and magazines can help you read more easily.

View with large type on the Internet. Look for Web sites that use large-sized type fonts, or change the font size on your display.

Obtain specialized appliances.Some clocks, radios, telephones and other appliances have extra-large numbers.

Have proper light in your home.This will help with reading and other activities.

Remove home hazards. Eliminate throw rugs and other possible tripping hazards in your home.

Ask friends and family members for help. Tell them about your vision problems so that they can help you perform certain tasks and help you recognize people.

Don’t become socially isolated. A common frustration of people with macular degeneration is the inability to recognize other people and greet them by name. If this happens to you, try asking people you know to say hi and tell you their names when you meet them on the street or in other situations so that you can greet them back.

Take advantage of online networks. The Internet is a good source for support groups and resources for people with macular degeneration.

Talk to your doctor. Ask your doctor about receiving professional help to make your home safer and more convenient for you to use.

In an age-related eye disease study, people with moderate and advanced age-related macular degeneration were shown to have a significant benefit with regard to disease progression by taking dietary supplements containing high-dose antioxidants and zinc. Smoking cessation is recommended for everyone in order to prevent or slow down progression of retinal disease.

People with advanced age-related macular degeneration may benefit from low-vision aids.

  • Handheld magnifiers for reading
  • Telescopes to see into the distance
  • Talking watches
  • Computers that talk or that use large type faces

People should be encouraged to use the remaining peripheral vision that is unaffected by the macular degeneration. A useful test that may indicate macular problems or worsening of age-related macular degeneration is the Amsler grid. The Amsler grid consists of a square grid with a dark dot in the middle. Broken or distorted lines or a blurred or missing area of vision could be one of the first signs of age-related macular degeneration. The grid also helps to monitor changes in vision once changes have been detected.