Coping with Macular Degeneration on the Job

Coping with Macular Degeneration on the Job

It is not easy to deal with a disease that is robbing you of your vision. At the same time something like the slow progression of macular degeneration could possibly threaten your job. Therefore, it is sometimes best to keep your challenge private so you can control your career path rather than having the rug pulled out from under you when management determines it a potential problem or even a liability.

Also, doing everything you can to protect yourself from triggers that may increase macular degeneration progression on the job is just as important.

If your macular degeneration is slowly progressing there are some steps you can take when it comes to your career.

Coping with macular degeneration on the job allows you to make current decisions so you can continue working as long as you can while taking steps to secure your future.

Large Text, Bold and Background Adjustments

If you have a job where you are exposed to a computer or phone screen daily, you don’t have to succumb to small black text on a stark white screen. Continued blue light screen exposure has been linked to eye fatigue, weakness and possible development or increase of AMD (age-related macular degeneration).

The American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) reports,

“Recent studies suggest that the blue end of the light spectrum may also contribute to retinal damage and possibly lead to AMD. The retina can be harmed by high-energy visible radiation of blue/violet light that penetrates the macular pigment found in the eye. According to a study by The Schepens Eye Institute, a low density of macular pigment may represent a risk factor for AMD by permitting greater blue light damage.”

You can try switching to large text. Most standard device settings (computer and phone) have a font or text size which automatically starts at small or medium. Check yours and go up one level to see if it helps with better viewing.

If you want, you can also choose the “bold” setting to darken your screen font so it really pops out. There are some devices where the background screen settings for something like Microsoft Word can change the white to a sepia or amber so it is easier on your eyes.

Protect Against Blue Light

In an office setting, not only does blue light from the computer pose a risk for development of macular degeneration but so too can other forms of blue light.

The Cleveland Jewish News reported on how to protect your eyes in an office environment citing optician Kevin Kretch who commented on getting a protective lens coating to minimize office blue light,

“Any time you have florescent, LED or artificial lighting in general, it will give off high energy blue lighting. What I like to do with my lenses is to have a coating to combat that. That blue light can cause macular degeneration and the coating can help fight that (vision loss).”

Some symptoms of excessive blue light exposure include:

  • Burning
  • Tearing
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Headaches
  • Squinting

Dr. Matthew Alpert, O.D., writes in The Huffington Post,

“…you should consider talking with your eye doctor about lenses that filter out blue light []. The lenses have little-to-no tint and can help to minimize the direct blue light exposure that you get throughout the day. Most of my patients who have these lenses noticed an immediate increase in eye comfort because of the improved contrast, which helps to relax the eyes.”

There are also add on screens you can put over your monitor to minimize blue light emission.

In addition to protecting yourself from blue light in the office, optometrist Dr. Giselle Lander, describes how to give your eyes a rest at the same time,

“You don’t want too bright of a screen paired with a too dark room, because the major contrast can also cause eye fatigue. You have to also take breaks and look away from the screen. There is the 20-20-20 rule, meaning that every 20 minutes, you look away 20 feet for 20 seconds. That can help minimize eye stress and fatigue.You should also do a lot of blinking, because without blinking, the eyes can be very dry. Dry eyes can cause other problems to arise as well.”

To recap, some key factors in protecting your eyes in an office environment include:

  • Practice the 20-20-20 rule
  • Make sure you blink a lot
  • Use a blue light reducing monitor screen
  • Wear protective blue light glasses or coating
  • Incorporate ‘look away from your screen’ breaks

On the Job Outdoor Light 

If your occupation requires continued exposure to outdoor light, it is important to keep your eyes covered for as long as possible. This is due to harsh, radiating sun rays that over time can either directly or peripherally damage your retina and lead to macular degeneration. Peripheral sources would be reflection off of snow, water or shiny material like steel, glass or mirror.

It is recommended to use polarized, anti-reflective lenses that cover as much of your eyes as possible. This is essential as many sunglasses concentrate on styles that just cover the middle leaving the sides, bottom and top exposed. Look for a design that wraps around and fits close to the face. For occupations that require working around potential eye irritants, always use protective eyewear or, if possible, remove yourself from hazardous risks.

Visual Optimization

In addition to protecting your eyes at an office or outdoor occupation, it may also be helpful to apply adaptive techniques in organizing for visual optimization. This mostly applies to an office setting which can be setup for easy access when vision may be a challenge.

Some visual optimization techniques include:

  • Multi colored folders with large print labeling
  • Light manipulation – Change fluorescents to less harsh white or set up a floor lamp with a natural light emitting bulb
  • Use a large display calculator, clock or watch
  • Bump dots – Adhesive dots you can place on start buttons or other spots you may not be able to see but can feel instead
  • Magnification – There are magnifying paperweights or on-desk devices that can inconspicuously increase hard document wording
  • Try a large button land line phone

Coping with macular degeneration on the job is a combination of protection and adaptation. Hopefully these and other tips will keep you going as long as you can giving you time to make arrangements for future decisions if need be.