This month is dedicated to creating awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the foremost source of blindness for individuals age 65 and over. Macular degeneration 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. In the case of macular degeneration, a degenerative eye disease, impairment is caused to the macula, the area of the retina which enables sharp central vision. AMD causes a vision loss relating to the central vision zone, but usually leaves peripheral vision intact.
Vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration is usually gradual but occasionally disruptions in vision can be sudden. Early signs of low vision from AMD include blurred areas in your central vision or unusually distorted vision. Although there is currently no cure for AMD, early detection and treatment is known to stop progression of the degeneration and therefore thwart vision loss. For those who have already lost acuity, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include seniors, females, Caucasians and individuals with blue eyes, severe hyperopia (farsightedness) or a genetic disposition. Risk factors that can be minimized include smoking, high blood pressure, exposure to UV light and inactivity. Paying attention to overall physical health and good nutrition has been determined to be preventative.
Individuals who are living with low vision should consult with an eye care professional about low vision training and specialized equipment that can facilitate self-sufficiency. After a thorough assessment, a low vision professional can help you obtain suitable low vision aids such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive devices such as electronic ''talking'' clocks and large-face printed material.
While macular degeneration is more likely in those over age 65, anyone can be affected and therefore it is recommended for every individual to schedule a yearly eye exam to assess eye health and discuss ways to prevent AMD and low vision.