by Mike Sturm
February is Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness Month and in this blog post, guest blogger Mike Sturm shares how difficult it was to get the correct diagnosis of AMD, leading to loss of vision in his eye. According to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, this eye disease is the leading cause of vision loss and affects more than 10 million Americans.
There are two basic types of macular degeneration: wet and dry. Wet, or macular edema, is the most dangerous. I have the wet type in both eyes. Wet means there is bleeding in the internal eye.
Due to a misdiagnosis, and the subsequent passage of too much time before being seen by a specialist, I lost useful vision in my left eye. The optometrist said I had a cataract (which was also true) so the ophthalmologist oﬃce saw no emergency and scheduled my appointment weeks later. I guess that the optometrist did not have the skill to recognize macular degeneration. Weeks of waiting was too long to save my vision in the left eye. I can see somewhat peripherally, but can only see colors and some texture with this eye now.
A few months after treatment on my left eye, I began having trouble seeing the menu in restaurants and generally having trouble seeing in places that were not well lighted. I made an appointment to have my vision checked again with a diﬀerent eye clinic and the optometrist told me that many folks my age had that problem and suggested I should just carry a magnifying glass with a light feature. I was careful to mention to this professional that I had macular edema in my left eye. Soon after this eye exam, I decided to ask my ophthalmologist about what I was experiencing. He informed me that I had bleeding in my right eye also, so I began treatment for macular edema in my right eye. Learning about my right eye was rather devastating news.
For the past couple of years I have been getting regular injections in my right eye; now, an injection every two months. These injections have allowed me to maintain 20/20 vision in my right eye (with glasses). My doctor is fantastic and the shots I receive are essentially painless. The eye is numbed before each shot, so the injections are a small price to pay for really good corrected vision in my right eye.
Naturally, there is some additional worry now attached to my life. I only have vision in one eye and thus don’t have any other eyes to fall back on at this point. I do feel fortunate in having a great doctor and having adequate vision to live my life normally. As part of my daily routine, I faithfully take an eye health vitamin supplement each morning and evening. My doctor directed me to take this vitamin supplement based on the results of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, a clinical trial conducted by the National Institutes of Health National Eye Institute. The vitamin is sold over the counter; it is very important to my visual well-being.
My information indicates that macular problems are largely attributed to heredity. Thus, if you have macular degeneration in your family history, I would suggest that you have your eyes checked regularly by an ophthalmologist as you advance in age. Learn from my experience and don’t rely on the word of your optometrist, who provides primary vision care but is not a medical doctor. I would also suggest that you consider taking a vitamin specifically designed to protect your eye health. The vitamins are somewhat expensive, but well worth the investment in preserving your vision.
Mike Sturm holds degrees in psychology, vocational counseling, and law. Now retired, he enjoys spending time with his three sons, their wives, and twin granddaughters.
Thank you Mike for sharing your story of perseverance and hope with our readers.
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