Living With Macular Degeneration



Macular Degeneration (MD) does not cause blindness. It causes loss of central vision, which means a dark patch, blank space or patch of distorted vision in the middle of the vision. The keys to managing Macular Degeneration (MD) are MAGNIFICATION, LIGHTING and CONTRAST.


Imagine looking out the window and in the middle of your view is a blurry hazy patch. You can still see where you are going, but you may have trouble reading a sign in the distance. If however, you are looking at a small word on a page and there is a patch over the word, you cannot make out what the word says. If you magnify the word, make it much bigger, the patch does not cut out as much of the word and you are able to get the meaning of the word.


The larger the patch in the vision, the stronger the magnifier required to see the word. As magnifiers get stronger they usually get smaller, so that the individual letters look bigger but fewer letters can be seen in the magnifier without moving it. There are many different magnifiers available. A “Low Vision” assessment is required to get the right type of magnifier.


CONTRAST is how we see things against their background. MD also has the effect of reducing contrast sensitivity so things don’t stand out from their background as well as they used to. Newsprint is an example of very poor contrast. The most important ways of improving contrast are COLOUR  and LIGHT.


• The macular contains the most light sensitive cells in the retina. When these cells are not working properly more light is needed.
• Lighting improves contrast.
• Strong light makes the pupils smaller, which aids focus
• The closer the light is, the stronger it is. For tasks such as reading, writing, sewing or cooking a light should be placed as close as possible to the task. This means using a lamp, even during the day.


• Magnifiers often have a light built in. This is particularly helpful as the light is then always in the right place wherever it is being used.

The key to living with MD is understanding the problem and using MAGNIFICATION, LIGHTING and CONTRAST to compensate for the loss of central vision.