February is dedicated to creating awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss for seniors. AMD is one of the causes of low vision, a phrase eye doctors use to categorize substantial vision loss that is also called “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. In the case of macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease, impairment is caused to the macula, the area of the retina which enables sharp central vision. AMD causes a disruption in or blurring of the central vision zone, but usually leaves peripheral vision intact.
Vision Impairment from age-related macular degeneration is usually gradual but on occasion impairment can be sudden. Early signs of low vision from AMD include shadowy areas in your central visual field or unusually distorted sight. Although AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and treatment is known to stop advancement of the disease and therefore thwart vision impairment. 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, females, Caucasians and individuals with blue eyes, severe hyperopia (farsightedness) or a genetic disposition. Controllable risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, exposure to ultraviolet light and being overweight. Paying attention to overall physical health and a proper diet has been determined to be preventative.
Individuals who suffer from low vision should consult with an optometrist about low vision rehabilitation and specialized devices that can enable independence. After a proper assessment, a low vision expert can help you obtain appropriate low vision aids such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive aids such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
While macular degeneration is more common in the elderly, anyone can be affected and therefore it is wise for every individual to schedule a regular eye exam to assess eye health and learn about ways to prevent this and other serious eye diseases.