Macular degeneration is a very common eye condition, currently affecting 10 million Americans. That’s more than the number of people with cataracts and glaucoma combined. Age-related macular degeneration is so prevalent among older adults that it’s the leading cause of vision loss for people over 50.
The Council, along with the UW Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, is hosting a free Virtual Age-Related Macular Degeneration Symposium on Thursday, October 14 from 4 to 6 p.m. We hope you will join us to learn more about this condition and have your questions answered by eye health experts.
What is Macular Degeneration?
According to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF), the condition is caused by a deterioration of the central portion of the retina, which is the inside back layer of the eye. The retina is responsible for focusing your eye’s central vision and controls your ability to see objects directly in front of you.
Macular degeneration can cause various vision changes, including:
- A diminished ability to see details, like the text of a book
- The presence of a spot or “scotoma” near the center of your vision, along with some distortion, blurriness or waviness
- A reduction in light to the retina, which makes what you are seeing appear darker
- The loss of ability to focus on things due to poor contrast or color
Macular degeneration doesn’t fully impact vision in its early stages, but if the condition gets worse, central vision may be completely lost. There is currently no cure for macular degeneration, but research is ongoing, and strategies are available for managing the condition.
“It’s important to let people know help is available,” Council Education and Vision Services Director Amy Wurf says.
“Your eye doctor is a crucial partner for care and maintenance of the eyes and management of conditions that affect vision. Research is also critical to learn more about eye diseases and possible treatments. And rehabilitation is very important for people to learn how to manage daily activities when they have vision loss.”
Your Questions Answered at the Virtual Symposium
The symposium is free and open to all, and represents your opportunity to ask questions, share concerns, and learn more about age-related macular degeneration. And because it’s virtual, you can join from anywhere.
“Patients and their families who are dealing with a serious, chronic illness like macular degeneration need tools to learn more about the condition and the resources available to them,” Wisconsin Reading Center Medical Director and Professor Dr. Barbara Blodi says.
Penny Happli of Wausau, who attended a previous Council symposium, finds educational opportunities like this one invaluable.
“The symposium I attended was very informative, especially being able to ask questions and find out about the tools and devices available to support the tasks you do every day,” Penny says. “I’m looking forward to learning more this year.”
The symposium will also feature panel discussions on these topics:
- Why does macular degeneration develop?
- How is prevention research improving?
- Who is offering new treatment methods?
- Where are resources available after diagnosis?
“Everyone who attends will learn more about the specific tools already helping people with changing vision, and how they are continuing to thrive,” Dr. Blodi says.
Tools and Skills to Remain Independent
In addition to the tools that will be discussed at the symposium, there are also small changes you can make to reduce the impact of macular degeneration. The National Eye Institute suggests:
- Using brighter lights at home or work
- Wearing anti-glare sunglasses
- Working with a magnifying lens for reading and other up-close activities
If your vision loss is getting in the way of your everyday activities, you may benefit from learning more about vision rehabilitation. The symposium will feature information about how specialists can support you as you learn to live with vision loss.
“We want people to keep doing the things they like to do and to make adjustments as needed,” Wurf says.
Learn more and register now:
The symposium is free and open to all, but you must register in advance to receive the link to join. There is also an option for audio-only participation by dialing in using your phone. Learn more and register on the event website.
A “Living with Macular Degeneration Guide,” including risk factors, questions to ask health experts, and possible treatments, is available on the American Foundation for the Blind website.
Questions and answers after a new diagnosis of macular degeneration and what to expect following it are available on the American Macular Degeneration Foundation website.