This month is dedicated to spreading awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the foremost cause of blindness for individuals age 65 and over. Macular degeneration often leads to low vision, a term optometrists use to categorize substantial vision loss that cannot be improved by standard measures such as normal eye glasses, contact lenses, medication or even surgical procedures. For those with AMD, a progressive eye disease, impairment occurs to the macula, the area of the retina which enables sharp vision in the central visual field. AMD causes a blurring of the central vision zone, but typically leaves peripheral vision intact.
Vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but on occasion disruptions in vision can be sudden. Early signs of low vision from AMD include blurred areas in your central visual field or very fuzzy vision. While there is currently no cure for AMD, early diagnosis and attention can stop 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 at higher risk of AMD include individuals over 65, females, Caucasians and people with blue eyes, severe farsightedness or family members with the disease. Controllable risk factors include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and obesity. Maintaining overall physical health and good nutrition has been shown to be preventative.
Those who are living with low vision should consult with an eye doctor about low vision rehabilitation and specialized equipment that can facilitate a return to favorite activities. After an extensive eye exam, a low vision specialist can recommend suitable low vision devices such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive devices such as electronic ''talking'' clocks and large-face printed material.
Although macular degeneration is more likely in those over age 65, it can affect anyone and therefore it is recommended for every individual to schedule an annual eye exam to determine eye health and discuss preventative measures for AMD and low vision.