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Living Well with Geographic Atrophy

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8 Things to Know After a Geographic Atrophy Diagnosis

Medically Reviewed By Vicente Diaz, MD, MBA

If your ophthalmologist says you’re showing signs of an advanced form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) known as geographic atrophy, it can help to gain some knowledge about this diagnosis.

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Geographic atrophy (GA) is an advanced form of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), in which the retina’s center deteriorates and loss of vision begins.

About 160,000 Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source people in the United States receive a geographic atrophy diagnosis each year. As dry AMD progresses, retina cells die off, creating lesions. They cause blind spots called scotomas.

Because GA often leads to irreversible vision loss, learning about your condition can help you cope with it and its effect on your quality of life. Here are a few key facts if you learn that you have geographic atrophy.

1. Age is the No. 1 risk factor

The risk of developing geographic atrophy increases with age, and family history is also a risk factor. Others are a higher body mass index, smoking, and health conditions like heart disease and diabetes may also raise your risk.

2. You can consider working with a retina specialist

Even if you have an ophthalmologist, it might be worth consulting a retina specialist. You want to get the right diagnosis and management, including treatments tailored to you and your condition. Research from 2023 Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source suggests it’s best to see a retina specialist as soon as you learn that you have dry AMD to monitor progression and GA.

3. GA is a progressive disease

There’s not (yet) a cure for geographic atrophy. Because it’s progressive, symptoms may become severe over time. It may take about 2.5 years Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source from the initial diagnosis until central vision declines. Some 2023 research Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source  also suggests that it tends to progress faster in people with a larger lesion (or multiple lesions) when detected than people with smaller lesions. 

4. New treatments are available

In 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two drugs Trusted Source National Eye Institute Governmental authority Go to source to treat geographic atrophy: Syfovre (pegcetacoplan) and Izervay (avacincaptad pegol). Both medications, given as monthly injections into the eye, have been shown to slow the progression of GA. However, they raise the risk of developing wet AMD, in which the blood vessels that grow under the retina begin to leak fluid or blood.

5. Anti-VEGF injections are not a solution

A common treatment for wet AMD does not stop the development or progression of geographic atrophy. If you do have wet AMD, an ophthalmologist may have given you injections of anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) medication. These medications, injected through the white of the eye, slow the growth of blood vessels in the eye that can lead to vision loss. However, you can still develop GA after you’ve received those anti-VEGF injections, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation.

6. Consider changing your diet

The Mediterranean diet, known for being heart-healthy, may also be good for your eyes. A 2022 study suggests that a Mediterranean diet may help slow the advancement of geographic atrophy and preserve more of your vision for longer. Consider integrating whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats like olive oil while limiting added sugar and red meat.

7.  Low vision aids can make your life a little easier

Many low vision aids can help you navigate life after some vision loss from geographic atrophy. Research from 2023 Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source  suggests that using low vision aids can positively affect your mental health, social functioning, and other areas of your life.

Some commonly used low vision aids include handheld magnifiers, stand magnifiers, telescopes, video magnification systems, lamps, and large print items. You could also consider hyperocular glasses, which provide a high degree of magnification. 

8.  Occupational therapy can help you develop strategies

Adjusting to vision loss can be daunting, but you don’t have to do it alone. An occupational therapist who specializes in low vision therapy can help you develop new strategies to get along. They can also advise you on how to use low vision aids. Ask your ophthalmologist for recommendations for therapists.

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Medical Reviewer: Vicente Diaz, MD, MBA
Last Review Date: 2024 Apr 1
View All Living Well with Geographic Atrophy Articles
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