February is dedicated to creating awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. AMD is the number one cause of blindness for individuals age 65 and over. Macular degeneration often results in low vision, a term eye doctors use to categorize substantial vision loss that cannot be helped by typical measures such as normal glasses, contact lenses, medication or even eye surgery. In the case of macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease, impairment occurs to the macula, the area of the retina which is responsible for clear central vision. The disease causes a blurring of central vision, but usually leaves peripheral vision intact.
Low vision due to AMD usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but occasionally vision loss can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early symptoms of vision loss from AMD include shadowy areas in your central vision or very distorted sight. Although there is currently no cure for AMD, early detection and attention can slow progression of the disease and therefore avoid vision loss. For individuals who have already experienced vision loss, 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 farsightedness or family members with the disease. Risk factors that can be controlled include smoking, high blood pressure, exposure to ultraviolet light and being overweight. Proper exercise and diet including certain nutrients can reduce your risk.
Those who are living with low vision should consult with an eye care professional about low vision rehabilitation and special devices that can enable a return to favorite activities. After a proper assessment, a low vision specialist can prescribe appropriate low vision devices such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive devices such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Since AMD and other eye diseases can be prevented by early diagnosis, eye doctors suggest a routine yearly eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to prevention of vision loss.