February is dedicated to spreading awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. AMD is the number one source of blindness for individuals age 65 and over. AMD is one of the causes of low vision, a term optometrists use to categorize major vision loss that cannot be helped by usual treatments such as normal glasses, contact lenses, medicine or even eye surgery. In the case of macular degeneration, a degenerative eye disease, impairment occurs to the macula, the area of the retina which produces clear vision in the central visual field. The disease causes a disruption in or blurring of central vision, but typically leaves peripheral vision intact.
Low vision due to age-related macular degeneration usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but rarely impairment can be sudden. Early signs 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 halt progression of the disease and therefore avoid vision loss. For individuals who have already suffered from vision impairment, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include individuals over 65, females, Caucasians and individuals with light eye color, severe hyperopia (farsightedness) or family members with the disease. Controllable risk factors include smoking, hypertension, exposure to ultraviolet light and obesity. Paying attention to overall physical health and good nutrition has been determined to be preventative.
Those who suffer from low vision should consult with an optometrist about low vision rehabilitation and special equipment that can facilitate a return to favorite activities. After a proper examination, a low vision professional can suggest appropriate low vision devices such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive devices 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 every individual to schedule a regular eye exam to determine eye health and learn about preventative measures for this and other serious eye diseases.