This month has been announced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss for senior citizens. AMD often results in low vision, a phrase eye doctors use to refer to significant visual impairment that cannot be improved by typical measures such as regular glasses, contacts, medication or even surgical procedures. In the case of macular degeneration, a degenerative eye disease, damage occurs to the macula, the area of the retina which is responsible for clear central vision. The disease causes a disruption in or blurring of the central vision zone, but typically leaves peripheral vision intact.
Vision Impairment from AMD is usually gradual but on occasion impairment can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early signs of low vision from AMD include blurred areas in your central visual field or unusually fuzzy sight. Although AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and attention can slow progression of the disease and subsequently prevent vision loss. For those who have already lost acuity, a normal life can be maintained with low-vision rehabilitation.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include senior citizens, women, Caucasians and people with blue eyes, severe farsightedness or family members with the disease. Controllable risk factors include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and inactivity. Paying attention to overall physical health and good nutrition has been shown to be preventative.
Those who are living with low vision should consult with an optometrist about low vision training and specialized devices that can enable a return to favorite activities. After a proper eye exam, a low vision expert can suggest suitable low vision aids such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive devices such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Since AMD and other eye diseases can be prevented by early diagnosis, optometrists recommend a routine annual eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to prevention of vision loss.