This month has been declared age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness for senior citizens. AMD can result in low vision, a term eye care professionals use to refer to significant visual impairment that is sometimes called “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. For those with AMD, a progressive eye disease, impairment is caused to the macula, the area of the retina which is responsible for clear vision in the central visual field. AMD causes a vision loss relating to central vision, but usually doesn’t affect the peripheral visual field.
Vision loss from age-related macular degeneration usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but occasionally disruptions in vision can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early signs of low vision from AMD include shadowy areas in your central visual field or very fuzzy vision. Although AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and treatment is known to slow advancement of the degeneration and subsequently prevent low vision. For individuals who have already suffered from vision impairment, a normal life can be maintained with low-vision rehabilitation.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include seniors, females, Caucasians and individuals with light eyes, severe hyperopia (farsightedness) or family members with the disease. Controllable risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, exposure to UV light and obesity. Maintaining overall physical health and good nutrition has been shown to be preventative.
Individuals who are living with low vision should speak to an optometrist about low vision training and specialized equipment that can facilitate a return to favorite activities. After a proper eye exam, a low vision expert can help you obtain suitable low vision aids such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive aids 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.