This month is dedicated to spreading awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. AMD is the number one source of visual impairment for individuals age 65 and over. AMD can result in low vision, a phrase optometrists use to categorize major vision loss that is sometimes known as “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. For those with AMD, a progressive eye disease, impairment occurs to the macula, the area of the retina which produces clear vision in the central visual field. The disease causes a blurring of central vision, but typically leaves peripheral vision intact.
Vision loss from AMD 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 visual field or very distorted vision. Although AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and attention can stop advancement of the disease and therefore thwart vision loss. For individuals who have already experienced vision loss, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those at higher risk of AMD include senior citizens, females, Caucasians and individuals with light eyes, severe hyperopia (farsightedness) or a genetic disposition. Risk factors that can be minimized include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and inactivity. Proper exercise and nutrition including certain nutrients has been linked to prevention.
Those who suffer from low vision should consult with their eye care professional about low vision rehabilitation and special equipment that can support a return to favorite activities. After an extensive eye exam, a low vision specialist can help you obtain helpful low vision devices such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive aids such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Because so many eye diseases can be treated only by early diagnosis, eye doctors recommend a routine annual eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to blindness prevention.