This month is age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. AMD is the foremost cause of visual impairment for individuals age 65 and over. AMD can result in low vision, a term optometrists use to refer to significant visual impairment that is also called “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. For those with AMD, a progressive eye disease, damage occurs to the macula, the area of the retina which is responsible for sharp central vision. AMD causes a vision loss relating to central vision, but usually leaves peripheral vision intact.
Low vision due to AMD is usually progressive but rarely vision loss can be sudden. Early symptoms of low vision from AMD include shadowy areas in your central visual field or unusually fuzzy vision. Although there is currently no cure for AMD, early detection and attention can halt progression of the degeneration and subsequently prevent 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 senior citizens, females, Caucasians and individuals with light eyes, severe farsightedness or family members with the disease. Controllable risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, exposure to UV light and obesity. Proper exercise and diet including certain nutrients has been linked to prevention.
Individuals who suffer from low vision should speak to their eye doctor about low vision rehabilitation and specialized equipment that can enable self-sufficiency. After a proper assessment, a low vision specialist can help you obtain appropriate low vision aids such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive devices such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Although AMD is more common in seniors, anyone can be affected and therefore it is wise for every individual to schedule a yearly eye exam to assess eye health and learn about preventative measures for this and other serious eye diseases.