This month is age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the number one cause of blindness for senior citizens. Macular degeneration is one of the causes of low vision, a term eye doctors use to categorize substantial vision loss that is also called “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. In the case of macular degeneration, a degenerative 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 vision loss relating to central vision, but usually leaves peripheral vision intact.
Vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration is usually progressive but on occasion disruptions in vision can be sudden. Early symptoms of vision impairment from AMD include blurred areas in your central visual field or very fuzzy sight. While AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and attention can stop advancement of the degeneration and subsequently prevent low vision. For those who have already lost acuity, a normal life can be maintained with low-vision rehabilitation.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include senior citizens, women, Caucasians and individuals with light eye color, severe farsightedness or family members with the disease. Controllable risk factors include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and inactivity. Paying attention to overall physical health and good nutrition has been determined to be preventative.
Those who are living with low vision should consult with their eye care professional about low vision training and special equipment that can enable a return to favorite activities. After a thorough eye exam, a low vision specialist can prescribe suitable low vision devices such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive aids such as electronic ''talking'' clocks and large-face printed material.
Although AMD is more common in seniors, anyone can be affected and therefore it is wise for everyone to have a yearly eye exam to assess eye health and learn about ways to prevent this and other serious eye diseases.