February has been declared age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the number one cause of visual impairment for individuals age 65 and over. AMD often results in low vision, a phrase eye doctors use to categorize substantial vision loss that is sometimes called “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. In the case of macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease, damage is caused to the macula, the part of the retina which is responsible for sharp central vision. AMD causes a vision loss relating to central vision, but typically leaves peripheral vision intact.
Vision Impairment due to age-related macular degeneration usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but occasionally vision loss can be sudden. Early symptoms of vision loss from AMD include shadowy areas in your central vision or very distorted vision. Although AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early diagnosis and treatment is known to halt advancement of the degeneration and subsequently avoid low vision. For individuals who have already lost acuity, a normal life can be maintained with low-vision rehabilitation.
Those at higher risk of AMD include senior citizens, women, Caucasians and individuals with blue eyes, severe farsightedness or family members with the disease. Controllable risk factors include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and inactivity. Proper exercise and diet 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 specialized devices that can enable a return to daily activities. After a proper eye exam, a low vision specialist can help you obtain helpful low vision aids such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive aids such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Since so many eye diseases can be halted by early diagnosis, optometrists recommend a routine annual eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to blindness prevention.