Published July 21, 2010
In true Glenn Beck form, sarcasm shone through his tears as he announced he was suffering from a condition that could eventually make him blind to an audience of 6,000 attending his “American Revival” tour in Salt Lake City Saturday.
Following the initial announcement, Beck joked that he was “too darn lazy to learn Braille.” His loyal fans wouldn’t expect anything less.
The Fox News host showed a clip of the announcement Monday night on his show, Glenn Beck.
"Yes, I have a problem with my eyes," Beck said in his announcement. "A couple of weeks ago, I went to the doctor because I can’t focus my eyes ... So I went to the best doctor I could find … he did all kinds of tests, and he said I have macular dystrophy."
Beck, 46, jokingly admitted to viewers that when he got the news from his doctor, he had confused the term macular dystrophy with muscular dystrophy saying, “Is that the Jerry Lewis thing? That telethon that he does? Cause I should have given more.”
Macular dystrophy affects a tiny portion of the retina called the macula — the part of the eye responsible for seeing sharp details and recognizing faces.
Symptoms of macular dystrophy include:
— Difficulty with reading print and identifying faces;
— Blurred vision;
—And trouble focusing.
Dr. Douglas R. Lazzaro, chairman of the department of ophthalmology at Long Island College Hospital, told FoxNews.com that macular dystrophy does have the potential to cause blindness in Beck.
Macular dystrophy usually affects more than one family member, however, Beck did not say if anyone else in his family had the condition, or identify what type of the rare disease he is suffering from.
Lazzarro, who has not treated Beck, said that there are several different types of macular dystrophy that effect vision during different periods of a patient’s life. Macular dystrophy is very different from macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness over the age of 60 in America.
“One of the more severe forms of the disease is known as cone dystrophy, and this usually affects your vision soon after birth,” Lazzaro said. Stargardt’s dystrophy begins to affect vision before the age of 20 at a very gradual rate, however the patient can still become legally blind.
Another type of macular dystrophy is Best’s disease, but more than likely Beck is not suffering from this type, because symptoms usually appear in childhood, and go through a number of stages, Lazzaro added. With Best’s disease, severe vision loss usually develops after the age of 45.
With some macular dystrophies, doctors can see yellow spots in the retina or changes in the pigment layer of the retina. But no matter which form of the disease Beck may be suffering from, the bottom line is his retinas are degenerating.
"He said things were blurry, so he could have any of these dystrophies, or even pattern dystrophy," Lazzaro said.
For Beck, the severity of the disease determines whether or not he will lose his vision, and if so, how long it will take. There is no cure or treatment for macular dystrophy.
"He may become legally blind, which is 20/200 or worse," Lazzaro said. "Put it this way, (when you are legally blind) you can’t drive, and it may be difficult to read without magnification tools. It impacts your life, but usually patients retain some vision with these diseases."
Beck seemed to take the news in stride, adding his own brand of humor to a very personal medical issue.
“I plan on dealing with it with a smile and dignity, and quite honestly, at least I’ll be able to get away with a blind joke from time to time,” Beck said.
FoxNews.com's Jessica Ryen Doyle and Jessica Mulvihill contributed to this article.