This month is age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the foremost source of blindness for seniors. AMD often leads to low vision, a phrase eye doctors use to refer to major vision loss that is also known as “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. In the case of macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease, damage occurs to the macula, the part of the retina which is responsible for clear vision in the central visual field. AMD causes a disruption in or blurring of central vision, but usually leaves peripheral vision intact.
Vision Impairment from age-related macular degeneration is usually gradual but on occasion vision loss can be sudden. Early signs of low vision from AMD include shadowy areas in your central visual field or very distorted sight. While there is currently no cure for AMD, early diagnosis and treatment is known to halt advancement of the disease and subsequently thwart vision loss. For individuals who have already lost acuity, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those at higher risk of AMD include seniors, females, Caucasians and individuals with blue eyes, severe hyperopia (farsightedness) or family members with the disease. Risk factors that can be minimized include smoking, high blood pressure, exposure to ultraviolet light and inactivity. Maintaining overall physical health and a proper diet has been determined to be preventative.
Individuals who are living with low vision should consult with their eye care professional about low vision training and specialized devices that can enable a return to favorite activities. After a thorough examination, a low vision specialist can help you obtain suitable low vision devices such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive devices such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Although AMD is more common in the elderly, anyone can be affected and therefore it is recommended for every individual to have a regular eye exam to assess eye health and learn about preventative measures for this and other serious eye diseases.