February is dedicated to increasing awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness for seniors. AMD is one of the causes of low vision, a term eye care professionals use to describe significant visual impairment that is sometimes called “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. For those with AMD, a degenerative eye disease, impairment is caused to the macula, the area of the retina which is responsible for sharp central vision. AMD causes a vision loss relating to the central vision zone, but usually leaves peripheral vision intact.
Low vision due to age-related macular degeneration usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but occasionally impairment can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early symptoms of low vision from AMD include blurred areas in your central vision or unusually fuzzy vision. While AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and attention is known to halt progression of the disease and therefore thwart vision loss. For those who have already suffered from vision impairment, a normal life can be maintained with low-vision rehabilitation.
Those at higher risk of AMD include individuals over 65, women, Caucasians and individuals with blue eyes, severe farsightedness or family members with the disease. Controllable risk factors include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and obesity. Proper exercise and nutrition including certain nutrients has been linked to prevention.
Those who suffer from low vision should consult with an optometrist about low vision training and specialized devices that can enable self-sufficiency. After an extensive examination, a low vision expert can prescribe helpful low vision aids such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive devices such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Because AMD and other eye diseases can be treated only by early diagnosis, optometrists recommend a routine annual eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to prevention of vision loss.