February is dedicated to increasing awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. AMD is the leading source of blindness for individuals age 65 and over. AMD is one of the causes of low vision, a phrase eye doctors use to categorize significant visual impairment that cannot be improved by standard measures such as normal glasses, contacts, medicine or even surgical procedures. For those with AMD, a degenerative eye disease, impairment is caused to the macula, the area of the retina which enables clear vision in the central visual field. The disease causes a disruption in or blurring of the central vision zone, but typically leaves peripheral vision intact.
Vision Impairment from AMD is usually gradual but occasionally disruptions in vision can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early signs of vision loss from AMD include blurred areas in your central vision or unusually fuzzy sight. While AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early diagnosis and treatment is known to slow advancement of the degeneration and therefore avoid vision impairment. For individuals who have already experienced vision loss, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include seniors, females, Caucasians and people with light eye color, severe 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 can reduce your risk.
Individuals who suffer from low vision should consult with an eye care professional about low vision rehabilitation and specialized equipment that can enable a return to favorite activities. After a thorough assessment, a low vision expert can recommend helpful low vision aids such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive aids such as electronic "talking" clocks and large-face printed material.
While AMD is more common in those over age 65, anyone can be affected and therefore it is wise for everyone to schedule an annual eye exam to assess eye health and discuss preventative measures for this and other serious eye diseases.