This month is dedicated to increasing awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the number one source of vision loss for seniors. AMD often leads to low vision, a phrase eye doctors use to describe major visual impairment that cannot be helped by typical treatments such as regular glasses, contact lenses, medication or even surgical procedures. In the case of macular degeneration, a degenerative eye disease, impairment is caused to the macula, the area of the retina which produces sharp vision in the central visual field. AMD causes a blurring of central vision, but usually leaves peripheral vision intact.
Vision loss from AMD is usually gradual but rarely disruptions in vision can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early signs of vision loss from AMD include shadowy areas in your central visual field or very distorted sight. Although AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and attention is known to halt advancement of the disease and subsequently prevent vision impairment. For those who have already lost acuity, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include senior citizens, females, Caucasians and individuals with light eye color, severe farsightedness or family members with the disease. Controllable risk factors 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 consult with an eye care professional about low vision rehabilitation and special equipment that can enable a return to favorite activities. After a proper eye exam, a low vision specialist can help you obtain appropriate low vision aids such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive aids such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Although macular degeneration is more likely in the elderly, anyone can be affected and therefore it is wise for everyone to schedule an annual eye exam to assess eye health and discuss preventative measures for AMD and low vision.