Macular degeneration is still a poorly understood condition. Her local doctor could not treat her, so he referred Mrs. Cox to a specialist in the nearest big city, about 100 miles away. She went with hopes of a cure. But she learned that any improvement would be limited. “Once I went to see this new doctor, I thought that I’d be able to see again. But he said that my eyesight would never be the same.”

Mrs. Cox was lucky. She got the newest and best treatment for macular degeneration: photodynamic therapy. With it, a special dye is injected into the patient’s bloodstream. After 15 minutes, the dye travels into the damaged eye. The dye concentrates in the abnormal blood vessels that cause macular degeneration. The laser heats up the abnormal vessels and helps seal them, hopefully preventing further damage to the eye. 

However, photodynamic therapy was not a cure for Mrs. Cox. She had two laser treatments since her diagnosis. As the dye made her sensitive to light, she left the clinic wearing a wide-brimmed hat, special sunglasses, and gloves. After each treatment, she had to remain indoors for a few days to prevent any damage from the sun.  

She saw a small improvement in her vision, but every few months she went back for another treatment. Recurrences of macular degeneration are common, even with the best treatment. Without continued treatments, her condition would go downhill.

Diet, Behavior, and Heredity
Following her diagnosis, Mrs. Cox ate plenty of green leafy vegetables. Some studies have shown that people who eat spinach, mustard greens, and other leafy vegetables are less likely to get macular degeneration. She hoped that by eating spinach, she would help to keep the sight in her right eye. Also, she was a smoker for 15 years. Smokers are twice as likely to get macular degeneration.

She said, “Some of my brothers and sisters went blind, and once that happened, they couldn’t do anything for themselves.” Mrs. Cox said more than she realized. Recent research suggests that macular degeneration runs in families and is inherited. People who have relatives with the condition are at increased risk for it. Researchers continue to try to understand which genes play a role in this condition. Hopefully, in the future, there will be a genetic test to show if someone is at increased risk for macular degeneration.

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