This month has been announced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness for individuals age 65 and over. Macular degeneration often leads to low vision, a term eye doctors use to categorize substantial vision loss that cannot be improved by typical treatments such as regular eye glasses, contact lenses, medication or even eye surgery. For those with AMD, a progressive eye disease, damage 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 central vision, but typically doesn’t affect the peripheral visual field.
Low vision due to age-related macular degeneration usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but rarely impairment can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early signs of low vision from AMD include blurred areas in your central visual field or very distorted sight. Although there is currently no cure for AMD, early diagnosis and treatment is known to stop advancement of the disease and subsequently avoid low vision. For individuals who have already suffered from vision impairment, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include individuals over 65, women, Caucasians and individuals with blue eyes, severe hyperopia (farsightedness) or family members with the disease. Risk factors that can be controlled include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and obesity. Paying attention to overall physical health and good nutrition has been shown to be preventative.
Those who are living with low vision should speak to their 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 professional can prescribe suitable low vision aids such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive devices such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Although macular degeneration is more likely in those over age 65, it can affect anyone and therefore it is wise for every individual to have an annual eye exam to determine eye health and discuss ways to prevent this and other serious eye diseases.