This month has been announced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the foremost cause of blindness for senior citizens. Macular degeneration often results in low vision, a phrase eye care professionals use to refer to significant visual impairment that is also known as “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. For those with AMD, a degenerative eye disease, damage occurs to the macula, the area of the retina which produces clear vision in the central visual field. AMD causes a blurring of the central vision zone, but typically doesn’t affect the peripheral visual field.
Vision Impairment due to age-related macular degeneration usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but occasionally vision loss can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early signs of low vision from AMD include blurred areas in your central vision or unusually fuzzy vision. Although there is currently no cure for AMD, early detection and treatment can halt advancement of the degeneration and therefore prevent low vision. 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, women, Caucasians and people with light eye color, severe hyperopia (farsightedness) or family members with the disease. Risk factors that can be minimized include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and being overweight. Proper exercise and nutrition including certain nutrients has been linked to prevention.
Those who are living with low vision should speak to their eye doctor about low vision training and special devices that can support a return to daily activities. After an extensive assessment, a low vision expert can suggest appropriate low vision aids such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive aids such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
While macular degeneration is more likely in the elderly, it can affect anyone and therefore it is wise for every individual to schedule an annual eye exam to assess eye health and learn about ways to prevent this and other serious eye diseases.