Frequently Asked Questions

If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), or you’re concerned you may be at risk, it’s normal to have many questions. Below, we’ve provided answers to the most common questions about AMD.

1. If I develop AMD, will I go completely blind?

You may become “legally blind,” but it is unlikely that someone would go totally blind from AMD alone. Most AMD patients, even those with severe cases, still retain some measure of usable vision and can learn to perform many of the activities associated with daily living through adaptations or accommodations.

2. Is there a cure for AMD?

No, there is no cure for either form of the disease, but treatments are available to help control the progression of AMD and preserve vision. If you have intermediate dry AMD, taking a specific high-dose of vitamin supplements can help slow the progression of the disease. Speak to your eye doctor to determine if vitamin supplementation is right for you.

There are several treatments available for people with wet AMD, which can help slow down vision loss and, in some cases, restore vision. Again, it is a good idea so speak with your eye doctor on the best course of treatment for you.

3. I understand there are a few different drugs available to treat wet AMD. What are they, and how do I know which one is right for me?

Anti-angiogenic drugs are injected into the eye, sometimes for two years or longer, to stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels.

The three most common anti-angiogenic agents for wet AMD are:

Only Lucentis and Eylea have been approved by Health Canada and reimbursed in some provinces and territories.

Treatments for AMD are constantly evolving so it’s important to consult regularly with an eye doctor to learn about the latest developments.​

4. Can I prevent AMD?

You cannot prevent AMD,but, by making some changes in your diet and lifestyle you can minimize your risk of developing AMD. To help minimize your risk:

  • stay smoke-free.
  • wear sunglasses with at least 99 per cent UV protection.
  • eat lots of dark green, leafy vegetables.
  • decrease your consumption of processed and packaged foods.
  • eat extra omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish and flaxseed oil).
  • keep your blood pressure under control.

People over the age of 50 are especially encouraged to see an eye doctor for comprehensive eye exams regularly to ensure optimal vision health.

5. My parent has recently started to lose their vision, and they are having a hard time coping with the situation. I’m not sure how to help them. What supports are out there?

It’s not unusual for someone to feel depressed, angry or alone when they experience a loss of vision – and it can be just as hard, as a family member, to watch a loved one struggle to adjust. If you or a loved one are struggling to overcome the emotional challenges of vision loss, we’re here for you.

  • Join a CNIB support group and receive emotional support from other people who understand the impact of vision loss on everyday life.
  • Call the toll-free CNIB Helpline at 1-800-563-2642 and get immediate, confidential telephone support. Many of our Helpline staff are blind or partially sighted themselves, and all are trained to assist you in accessing programs and services to help meet your needs.
  • Join our Vision Mate program and connect with a caring volunteer who’s trained to provide assistance.
  • Access counseling services through CNIB or recommended community resources.
  • Learn about opportunities to take part in leisure, recreation and social programs in your community.

6. How do I know when my eye problem is an emergency? When should I self-treat, go to my eye doctor or head to the emergency room?

It’s always hard to know whether or not an eye problem is an emergency, but there are a few red flags that people should watch for:

Go to the emergency room right away if . . .

  • you suddenly can’t see out of one eye or experience sudden blindness. You may have a blocked artery in the blood vessels that lead into your eye, and this will require immediate medical attention.
  • you experience sudden vision loss (whether total or partial) in one eye. This could also be caused by a detached retina, or by retinal bleeding from wet AMD.
  • your eye becomes very painful in a matter of hours
  • you experience sudden and extreme sensitivity to light.
  • you experience any kind of trauma to the eyes; for example, if your eye has been struck by an object of any kind.
  • there are a lot of flashers or floaters in your vision.

7. I think I’m having visual hallucinations. What do I do?

If you’re experiencing visual hallucinations, talk to your eye doctor and your family doctor right away – but bear in mind that what you’re going through is very normal for many people who are living with an eye disease. You’re not alone.

People living with low vision due to an eye disease are at an increased risk of developing Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS), which causes visual hallucinations.

The hallucinations most often occur when alone, awake, physically inactive and in dim light. These hallucinations are not delusions – they’re merely phantom images. Think of it as your eyes playing tricks on you.

Charles Bonnet syndrome usually presents itself at the onset of vision loss, but after a year or 18 months, hallucinations begin to subside as the brain adjusts to the new circumstances.

There is no cure for CBS but there are several activities you can do to help reduce the vividness of the hallucinations:

  • Interrupt vision for a short time by closing your eyes or blinking may help since hallucinations tend to be more frequent when fixating on objects.
  • Stand-up or moving slightly can help to get rid of the hallucinations.
  • Get enough sleep! Some people with CBS find that their hallucinations are worse when they are stressed- out or tired.
  • Change the level of light at work or home. If your hallucinations happen in dim light, then try to open the curtains or turn on a light or the television as the change in lighting may help to stop the hallucinations.
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