This month is dedicated to spreading awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. AMD is the number one cause of vision loss for senior citizens. AMD often results in low vision, a term eye care professionals use to categorize major vision loss that is also known as “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. For those with AMD, a progressive eye disease, impairment is caused to the macula, the part of the retina which produces clear vision in the central visual field. The disease causes a blurring of central vision, but usually leaves peripheral vision intact.
Low vision from AMD usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but rarely vision loss can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early symptoms of vision impairment from AMD include shadowy areas in your central visual field or unusually distorted sight. While there is currently no cure for AMD, early detection and attention can stop progression of the degeneration and subsequently thwart vision loss. For individuals who have already suffered from vision impairment, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those at higher risk of AMD include senior citizens, females, Caucasians and people with light eyes, severe hyperopia (farsightedness) or a genetic disposition. Risk factors that can be controlled include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and inactivity. Proper exercise and nutrition including certain nutrients has been linked to prevention.
Individuals who suffer from low vision should speak to their eye care professional about low vision rehabilitation and special devices that can facilitate a return to daily activities. After a proper eye exam, a low vision specialist can suggest helpful low vision devices such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive devices such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Although AMD is more likely in the elderly, it can affect anyone and therefore it is important for everyone to schedule a yearly eye exam to assess eye health and discuss ways to prevent AMD and low vision.