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Macular Degeneration

Blotchy shadows cloud the vision of over ten million Americans in the form of an incurable disease. This disease, known as Macular Degeneration, is the leading cause of vision loss. The topic of Macular Degeneration stood out to me because my grandfather is one of the people suffering from this condition. In order to understand Macular Degeneration and its effects, people must know what Macular Degeneration is, how it affects people’s daily lives, and how it affects people emotionally.

Primarily, people must know that, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, Macular Degeneration is “the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain” (n. pag. ) When this central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates, these images are not received correctly. Although vision is not affected in early stages of this disease, people may have wavy or blurred vision, and possibly even vision loss.

In severe cases, victims can be considered legally blind, even though peripheral vision is still present. This is due to the fact that shadowy areas form in victims’ central vision, causing distorted or fuzzy vision surrounding the dark areas. Causes of Macular Degeneration are still complex and not fully known, but two contributors are heredity and environment. In fact, people with lighter skin and eyes are more likely to contract the disease than people with darker pigmentation. Smoking, high blood pressure, and inactivity may also put people at risk.

There is currently no cure for Macular Degeneration, but some medications may help to slow progression of vision loss. Exercise, eating a balanced diet, and protecting eyes from ultraviolet light may also reduce the risk of contracting Macular Degeneration. In addition, Macular Degeneration affects the daily lives of people with the disease, along with their close friends or family members. People with Macular Degeneration may need to change their day to day life by exercising or dieting to slow progression of vision loss.

Family members may also feel the need to submit to these changes to reduce their own risk of contracting the disease. People who suffer from this disease are more likely to have a reduced quality of life because they have more trouble carrying out daily tasks, causing them to require more assistance from family and friends every day. According to Unite for Sight, an organization dedicated to improving eye care around the world, “Visual impairment is likely to affect mobility and access to social contacts. Social isolation, disengagement, loneliness, and loss of social support may result.

However, continued social support may be an effective buffer against the consequences of vision loss and the negative effects of stress caused by visual impairment” (n. pag. )This provides more of an obligation to friends and family of the sufferer to learn more about visual impairment so they can provide support more effectively. Furthermore, Macular Degeneration affects victims’ mental health. It is common for people suffering from Macular Degeneration to develop depression in the first few months after their diagnosis. Anxiety is also known to increase, which decreases people’s desire to care for themselves and others.

Individuals with Macular Degeneration can experience increases in psychological distress in their lives. According to an article written by Barbara Christiansen for the Daily Herald, “One of Dr. Jared Cooper’s patients sat in his office and told him she felt like a prisoner in her own home. The octogenarian suffered from macular degeneration and was legally blind. She didn’t want to move into assisted living, but she couldn’t do much of anything at home” (n. pag. ) This disease causes people to feel trapped in their own homes, which can wear down on an individual’s self-esteem.

In an interview with Macular Degeneration victim, Richard Petrashek, he says, “It’s distressing and uncomfortable when you can’t do things that other people do and things other people expect you to do. It’s depressing. Friends who don’t have it don’t completely understand it. Other people can’t visualize why you can’t see with your eyes open. It’s depressing to think that you’re going blind” (n. pag. ) Petrashek shared how depressing it feels to suffer from vision loss, even with a support system, because people will never completely understand how it feels unless they suffer from vision loss themselves.

It also feels embarrassing to require assistance from others for basic tasks like walking down from a curb or across the street, although the embarrassment may go away with time. Sufferers of Macular Degeneration also worry about their children or grandchildren contracting the disease, which they may feel guilt for because it is hereditary. This can cause even more stress to the life of someone suffering from vision loss. With these points in mind, it is easier to understand what Macular Degeneration is, how it affects people’s daily lives, and how it affects people emotionally.

This disease clouds the central vision and blurs peripheral vision, but there is currently no cure. This means that victims must live with the progressing blindness and require more assistance from others to complete daily tasks. The disease can cause increased depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation or embarrassment in its victims. One can only hope that one day a cure will be found so those ten million Americans and countless others suffering from Macular Degeneration will be able to see clearly once again.

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