February has been announced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the number one source of vision loss for senior citizens. AMD often leads to low vision, a phrase eye doctors use to describe substantial vision loss that cannot be helped by usual measures such as normal eye glasses, contacts, medication or even surgical procedures. For those with AMD, a progressive eye disease, damage is caused to the macula, the part of the retina which enables sharp central vision. AMD causes a blurring of the central vision zone, but usually leaves peripheral vision intact.
Vision loss from AMD usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but occasionally disruptions in vision can be sudden. Early symptoms of vision impairment from AMD include blurred areas in your central vision or very distorted sight. Although AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and treatment is known to slow advancement of the disease and therefore prevent low vision. For individuals who have already lost acuity, a normal life can be maintained with low-vision rehabilitation.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include individuals over 65, women, Caucasians and people with blue eyes, severe farsightedness or a genetic disposition. Controllable risk factors include smoking, hypertension, exposure to ultraviolet light and inactivity. Proper exercise and diet including certain nutrients has been linked to prevention.
Those who are living with low vision should consult with an optometrist about low vision training and specialized devices that can support a return to favorite activities. After a thorough eye exam, a low vision expert can prescribe appropriate low vision aids such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive aids such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Because so many eye diseases can be prevented by early diagnosis, optometrists recommend a routine annual eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to prevention of vision loss.