This month is age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading source of vision loss for seniors. AMD is one of the causes of low vision, a term eye care professionals use to refer to substantial visual impairment that is also known as “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. For those with AMD, a degenerative eye disease, damage occurs to the macula, the part of the retina which is responsible for sharp vision in the central visual field. AMD causes a disruption in or blurring of central vision, but typically leaves peripheral vision intact.
Vision Impairment from AMD usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but on occasion disruptions in vision can be sudden. Early symptoms of low vision from AMD include blurred areas in your central vision or very fuzzy sight. Although AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and treatment is known to halt progression of the degeneration and therefore prevent low vision. For those who have already lost acuity, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those at higher risk of AMD include senior citizens, females, Caucasians and individuals with light eye color, severe farsightedness or family members with the disease. Risk factors that can be minimized include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and being overweight. Proper exercise and nutrition including certain nutrients can reduce your risk.
Individuals who suffer from low vision should consult with their eye care professional about low vision training and special devices that can enable a return to favorite activities. After a proper assessment, a low vision professional can recommend suitable low vision aids such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive devices such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Although AMD is more likely in the elderly, anyone can be affected and therefore it is wise for everyone to schedule an annual eye exam to determine eye health and learn about ways to prevent AMD and low vision.