February has been announced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. AMD is the foremost cause of blindness for seniors. Macular degeneration often leads to low vision, a phrase eye care professionals use to refer to major visual impairment that cannot be improved by standard measures such as regular glasses, contacts, medicine or even eye surgery. In the case of macular degeneration, a degenerative eye disease, damage occurs to the macula, the part of the retina which produces clear central vision. The disease causes a blurring of central vision, but typically doesn’t affect peripheral vision.
Vision loss from age-related macular degeneration is usually progressive but on occasion disruptions in vision can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early symptoms of low vision from AMD include blurred areas in your central vision or unusually distorted vision. While AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and attention is known to stop advancement of the disease and therefore avoid vision loss. For those who have already suffered from vision impairment, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those at higher risk of AMD include individuals over 65, women, Caucasians and individuals with blue eyes, severe farsightedness or family members with the disease. Controllable risk factors include smoking, hypertension, exposure to ultraviolet light and inactivity. Proper exercise and nutrition including certain nutrients has been linked to prevention.
Those who are living with low vision should consult with an eye care professional about low vision rehabilitation and specialized devices that can enable self-sufficiency. After an extensive examination, a low vision professional can recommend suitable low vision aids such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive devices such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
While AMD is more likely in the elderly, it can affect anyone and therefore it is recommended for every individual to have a yearly eye exam to assess eye health and learn about preventative measures for AMD and low vision.