This month has been declared age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the foremost source of vision loss for individuals age 65 and over. Macular degeneration is one of the causes of low vision, a phrase eye care professionals use to refer to substantial visual impairment that cannot be improved by standard treatments such as regular eye glasses, contacts, medicine or even eye surgery. For those with AMD, a degenerative eye disease, damage is caused to the macula, the area of the retina which produces sharp 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 AMD is usually progressive but occasionally disruptions in vision can be sudden. Early signs of vision impairment from AMD include shadowy areas in your central vision or very distorted sight. While AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and treatment can halt advancement of the degeneration and subsequently avoid vision impairment. For individuals who have already suffered from vision impairment, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include senior citizens, women, Caucasians and individuals with light eye color, severe hyperopia (farsightedness) or a genetic disposition. Risk factors that can be minimized include smoking, hypertension, exposure to ultraviolet light and inactivity. 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 their eye doctor about low vision training and specialized equipment that can support a return to daily activities. After a thorough examination, a low vision specialist can help you obtain helpful low vision aids such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive devices such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
While macular degeneration is more common in those over age 65, anyone can be affected and therefore it is recommended for every individual to schedule a regular eye exam to determine eye health and learn about ways to prevent this and other serious eye diseases.