February is dedicated to increasing awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness for seniors. AMD often results in low vision, a term eye doctors use to refer to major vision loss that cannot be helped by standard treatments such as regular glasses, contacts, medicine or even surgical procedures. In the case of macular degeneration, a degenerative eye disease, impairment occurs to the macula, the part of the retina which produces clear vision in the central visual field. The disease causes a blurring of central vision, but typically doesn’t affect the peripheral visual field.
Low vision due to AMD usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but rarely disruptions in vision can be sudden. Early signs of low vision from AMD include shadowy areas in your central visual field or very distorted vision. Although AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and attention is known to stop advancement of the degeneration and subsequently prevent vision loss. For individuals who have already lost acuity, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include individuals over 65, females, Caucasians and individuals with light eye color, severe farsightedness or a genetic disposition. Risk factors that can be controlled include smoking, hypertension, exposure to ultraviolet light and inactivity. Proper exercise and nutrition including certain nutrients can reduce your risk.
Those who are living with low vision should consult with an eye care professional about low vision training and special devices that can enable self-sufficiency. After a thorough examination, a low vision expert can suggest appropriate low vision devices such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive aids such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Although AMD is more likely in the elderly, anyone can be affected and therefore it is wise for everyone to have a yearly eye exam to determine eye health and learn about preventative measures for this and other serious eye diseases.