This month is dedicated to creating awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. AMD is the leading cause of visual impairment for senior citizens. AMD often leads to low vision, a term optometrists use to categorize substantial visual impairment that cannot be helped by standard measures such as regular glasses, contacts, medication or even surgical procedures. In the case of macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease, damage is caused to the macula, the area of the retina which is responsible for sharp central vision. AMD causes a disruption in or blurring of the central vision zone, but typically leaves peripheral vision intact.
Low vision from age-related macular degeneration is usually progressive but on occasion impairment can be sudden. Early signs of vision loss from AMD include blurred areas in your central visual field or very distorted sight. While AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early diagnosis and attention is known to halt advancement of the disease and therefore thwart vision loss. For individuals 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 eye color, severe farsightedness or a genetic disposition. Risk factors that can be controlled include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and obesity. Proper exercise and diet 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 facilitate self-sufficiency. After a thorough assessment, a low vision specialist can recommend appropriate low vision aids such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive devices such as electronic ''talking'' clocks and large-face printed material.
Because AMD and other eye diseases can be treated only by early diagnosis, eye doctors suggest a routine annual eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to prevention of vision loss.