This month has been announced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. AMD is the number one cause of blindness for individuals age 65 and over. Macular degeneration often results in low vision, a term optometrists use to refer to major visual impairment that cannot be helped by usual treatments such as normal eye glasses, contact lenses, medicine or even surgical procedures. For those with AMD, a degenerative eye disease, damage is caused to the macula, the area of the retina which enables sharp vision in the central visual field. The disease causes a vision loss relating to central vision, but typically leaves peripheral vision intact.
Vision Impairment from AMD is usually progressive but occasionally disruptions in vision can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early symptoms of vision impairment from AMD include shadowy areas in your central vision or unusually fuzzy sight. While AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early diagnosis and treatment can slow progression of the degeneration and therefore avoid low vision. For individuals who have already suffered from vision impairment, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those at higher risk of AMD include seniors, women, Caucasians and individuals with light eye color, severe farsightedness or a genetic disposition. Risk factors that can be minimized include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and inactivity. Proper exercise and nutrition including certain nutrients can reduce your risk.
Individuals who are living with low vision should speak to their eye care professional about low vision rehabilitation and special equipment that can facilitate independence. After a proper eye exam, a low vision expert can recommend suitable low vision aids such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive aids such as electronic ''talking'' clocks and large-face printed material.
Although AMD is more likely in seniors, it can affect anyone and therefore it is wise for every individual to schedule an annual eye exam to determine eye health and learn about preventative measures for AMD and low vision.