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Living Well with Geographic Atrophy

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Improving Your Well-Being with Geographic Atrophy

Medically Reviewed By Katherine E. Duncan, MD

You can take steps to care for your vision and overall health with geographic atrophy — the late stage of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

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Geographic atrophy (GA) is the late stage of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD damages the macula, the part of the retina in the back of your eye that helps you see objects ahead of you. 

In GA, groups of cells in the macula die. Sometimes, these areas look like a map, which is why the disease is called “geographic.” GA can cause blind spots and permanent vision loss.

Losing sight from geographic atrophy can cause extra challenges in your daily life. This condition can make reading, driving, watching TV, and seeing faces harder. Until recently, there weren’t any treatments for geographic atrophy, but now medicines are available to slow its progression.

Getting treatment, preserving your sight, and finding support if needed can improve your well-being and quality of life with GA.

Getting on the right treatment

Pegcetacoplan injection (Syfovre) and avacincaptad pegol intravitreal solution (Izervay) are the first medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat GA. These medications come as injections your doctor puts into your eye every 1 to 2 months. 

These medications slow the progression of geographic atrophy by 14% to 20%. They work by reducing inflammation in the eye. However, they can’t bring back sight you’ve already lost.

GA medications work best if you start taking them before you lose vision. Your ophthalmologist might refer you to a retina specialist to manage your treatment. Because GA medication can cause side effects like bleeding and blurred vision, your doctor will balance the risks and the benefits before recommending it. 

Other promising treatments for geographic atrophy are in clinical trials. New medication in development aim to the slow damage and protect the retina. Signing up for one of these trials could be a way for you to access a treatment before it’s available to everyone else.

Low vision therapy

GA progresses differently in each person. You may not develop vision loss, but if you do, low vision therapy or vision rehabilitation can help you make the most of your sight. 

Vision rehabilitation specialists will teach you skills to stay independent with low vision. They’ll recommend low vision services and tools such as:

  • computers, tablets, smartphones, and televisions with easier-to-see images
  • large-print books, magazines, and newspapers
  • magnifying devices 
  • reading glasses
  • special lighting

An implantable miniature telescope (IMT) is a device a doctor places inside your eye during a surgical procedure. The IMT enlarges objects in the middle of your vision so you can see them more clearly. The FDA approved this device for people with late-stage AMD who have corrected vision from 20/160 to 20/800. 

The importance of self-care

While you are managing your vision, it’s also important to care for your overall health.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), people with obesity have an increased risk of AMD progression. 

High blood pressure and heart disease might also increase the risk of severe GA symptoms, including vision loss. Lifestyle considerations such as a balanced diet as recommended by a doctor or a registered dietitian, regular physical activity, and stress management can help protect your vision and improve your health. 

Extra omega-3 fatty acids from foods like fatty fish (tuna, sardines, mackerel) and flaxseed may help slow AMD. Vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene promote eye health. You can get these nutrients from leafy greens like spinach and kale, colorful vegetables, citrus fruits, and nuts.

Finding support

It can be challenging to live with a condition that affects your vision. You might worry that you’ll lose your independence and need to rely on friends and family for help. It’s usual to feel anxious or worried with a GA diagnosis.

A retina or vision rehabilitation specialist can recommend good sources of support. You can also turn to organizations like the American Macular Degeneration Foundation and the National Eye Institute (NEI) Trusted Source National Eye Institute Governmental authority Go to source  for information and advice.

Takeaway

GA is the advanced form of dry AMD. This condition damages cells in the retina and can lead to permanent vision loss. 

New treatments help slow the progression of GA. Your eye doctor or a retina specialist will personalize your treatment plan. A low vision rehabilitation program can teach you how to live better and stay independent. Having support will help you manage life with this progressive eye disease. 

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Medical Reviewer: Katherine E. Duncan, MD
Last Review Date: 2024 Apr 1
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