A Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration Patient Shares Her Mental Health Struggle

In an article for WebMD, Marilyn Gentile discusses her experience with age-related macular degeneration. She had cataract surgery at 70 years old and just days later she had a central retinal occlusion; doctors also found macular fluid leaking into her eye. Marilyn was sent to a retinal specialist who believed that she had wet age-related macular degeneration. She would need a shot in her eye in order to treat the condition and prevent blindness.

About Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Wet age-related macular degeneration is a condition affecting vision which can result in loss of eyesight or blurred eyesight in the middle of the visual field. One or both eyes may be affected. This is the least common form of macular degeneration, making up around ten percent of cases. In the wet form, blood vessels being to grow beneath the macula, resulting in fluids and blood leakage into the retina. Risk factors include European ancestry, a high fat diet, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, advanced age, and a family history of the disease. Symptoms often don’t occur in early stages but later can include vision distortion, sudden decline in visual acuity, visual hallucinations, difficulty discerning colors, and blurry vision. The primary treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration are VEGF inhibitors. Other potential approaches include photodynamic therapy and laser coagulation therapy. To learn more about this disease, click here

Marilyn’s Story

Ultimately, Marilyn would be diagnosed with wet age-related macular degeneration in her left eye and dry age-related macular degeneration in her right. The diagnoses were a heavy blow for her, as she knew next to nothing about the disease and had no family history of it. Depression loomed like a cloud over her mind.  

Next time Marilyn went to the doctor, she shared her mental health struggle with her doctor:

“I talked about how I cried all the time and didn’t want to be around other people. I said I felt like no one understood what was happening to me. At the same time, I didn’t want to talk about what was going on with my eyes because I was so uncomfortable with my diagnosis.” – Marilyn

The doctor shared that she received counseling to help her deal with her own chronic illness, and Marilyn left the office that day with the contact information for a psychologist. Two weeks later, she began therapy sessions where she learned breathing techniques to help her sleep better at night; she also began a low dose of antidepressants.

While things still aren’t easy for Marilyn–she is still facing vision declines–she’s been living with the age-related macular degeneration for six years and can still function on her own.

“In general, I’m much more appreciative of everything I see.”

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