February is age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the foremost cause of blindness for senior citizens. AMD is one of the causes of low vision, a term eye care professionals use to categorize substantial vision loss that cannot be helped by standard measures such as normal glasses, contacts, medicine or even eye surgery. In the case of macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease, impairment is caused to the macula, the area of the retina which is responsible for clear vision in the central visual field. AMD causes a disruption in or blurring of the central vision zone, but usually doesn’t affect the peripheral visual field.
Vision Impairment from AMD usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but rarely disruptions in vision can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early symptoms of low vision from AMD include blurred areas in your central visual field or very distorted sight. While there is currently no cure for AMD, early detection and attention can stop advancement of the degeneration and therefore thwart vision loss. For individuals 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 individuals over 65, females, Caucasians and individuals with blue eyes, severe farsightedness or a genetic disposition. Controllable risk factors include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and inactivity. 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 optometrist about low vision training and special equipment that can support a return to daily activities. After an extensive eye exam, a low vision expert can help you obtain suitable low vision devices such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive aids such as electronic ''talking'' clocks and large-face printed material.
While macular degeneration is more likely in those over age 65, it can affect anyone and therefore it is wise for every individual to have a regular eye exam to assess eye health and discuss preventative measures for this and other serious eye diseases.