This month has been announced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of visual impairment for senior citizens. Macular degeneration often results in low vision, a term eye doctors use to categorize significant visual impairment that cannot be helped by usual measures such as normal glasses, contacts, medicine or even eye surgery. For those with AMD, a progressive eye disease, impairment is caused to the macula, the area of the retina which enables clear vision in the central visual field. AMD causes a disruption in or blurring of the central vision zone, but usually leaves peripheral vision intact.
Vision loss due to AMD is usually gradual but on occasion vision loss can be sudden. Early symptoms of vision impairment from AMD include blurred areas in your central vision or unusually distorted vision. Although AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and attention is known to stop advancement of the disease and therefore avoid low vision. For those who have already suffered from vision impairment, a normal life can be maintained with low-vision rehabilitation.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include seniors, women, Caucasians and people with blue eye color, severe farsightedness or a genetic disposition. Risk factors that can be minimized include smoking, high blood pressure, exposure to ultraviolet light and obesity. Maintaining overall physical health and a proper diet has been shown to be preventative.
Those who are living with low vision should speak to their eye doctor about low vision rehabilitation and special equipment that can enable a return to daily activities. After an extensive eye exam, a low vision professional can prescribe appropriate low vision devices such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive aids such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
While AMD is more likely in those over age 65, it can affect anyone and therefore it is wise for everyone to have a regular eye exam to assess eye health and learn about ways to prevent AMD and low vision.