Can Treatment Help My Age-Related Macular Degeneration if I Am Legally Blind?

by Ray Gariano, MD, PhD

Is a legally blind patient a candidate for macular degeneration treatment?

Macular degeneration treatment may be helpful for some legally blind patients, depending on a number of considerations.

Patients are defined as legally blind if their visual acuity is no better than 20/200 in either eye. While this poor vision precludes many activities, such as driving or reading newsprint without visual aids, it may be sufficient for other activities, such as watching television, recognizing faces, safely getting around the home or in the community, preparing food and reading large print. For patients with macular degeneration whose vision has deteriorated to 20/200, further loss of vision may lessen their ability to perform many, or all, of these activities.

As a result, treating macular degeneration is sometimes desirable, even for a patient who is already legally blind, to prevent or reduce further decline. The decision to treat is made based on the judgment of the physician and the patient, and should address whether there is truly any useful central vision left to save; the visual needs and goals of the patient; prior response to treatment; and potential risks.

It should be stressed that macular degeneration affects only the central vision. If other conditions are present that may affect peripheral vision, such as glaucoma or cataract, treating these may be helpful, even though it will not undo the damage to central vision caused by the macular degeneration.

Dr. Ray Gariano is a board certified ophthalmologist at Scripps Clinic with expertise in vitreoretinal diseases.