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Age-Related Macular Degeneration: What I Learned from My Grandpa

Several years ago, my grandpa was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). To receive treatment, he caught the bus once a month from his small town to the nearby city. There, he met my aunt, who accompanied him to his appointment and then drove him home again afterward. If my aunt was away, someone else had to be found to help Grandpa to his appointment.

All of us were aware that Grandpa’s quality of life depended upon these regular appointments. Grandpa was, for several years, the full-time caregiver for my grandmother. Once her dementia was diagnosed, she was moved into a care home. Grandpa continued to visit her daily, driving his little truck across town to see her and, once a week, pick up her laundry. Grandpa also enjoyed doing Sudoku and crossword puzzles and watching sports. Any of that would be compromised if he lost his sight.

Are you at risk for age-related macular degeneration? (eye doctor checks eyes of elderly patient)

Now, when I’m filling out any sort of medical form, I list “age-related macular degeneration” under family illnesses. Genetics is one of the main causes of AMD, although environmental factors such as smoking, sun exposure and high blood pressure can also contribute to it. AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people over 55, but it can be slowed or reversed with treatment, as my grandpa’s was.

The Foundation for Fighting Blindness has created an information packet about AMD. It’s free to download and contains a wealth of information about preventing and treating AMD. If AMD runs in your family, or you know someone who may be affected by it, check out the info packet.

You can also watch the following video for more information:

I’m glad my grandpa’s AMD was diagnosed early enough for him to receive treatment for it. He was 97 when he passed away late last year, but he lived on his own up until his death. His experience also makes me more aware of the importance of caring for my own eyes. I schedule regular eye exams and let my optometrist know that my grandpa had AMD. I also try to remember to wear my sunglasses on bright days.

While age is one of the big factors for AMD, I’m glad to be aware of it now. Knowing that my grandpa suffered from this genetic disease can help me communicate with my health care providers about concerns, especially in a couple decades. I also feel that, by knowing the other risk factors of the disease, I can avoid those and perhaps decrease my risk of developing it. My girls also have fond memories of their great-grandpa, so I can use this example to talk to them about eating healthy, wearing sunglasses, and not smoking.

If you suspect a parent or grandparent is experiencing vision problems, encourage them to check out the info packet or see their eye doctor. If AMD runs in your family, as it does in mine, be aware of what you can do to prevent and treat it. Your eyes are important!

Do you know anyone who suffers from age-related macular degeneration? Have you heard of this disease before?

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