February is age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. AMD is the number one source of vision loss for senior citizens. Macular degeneration often results in low vision, a term eye care professionals use to describe significant vision loss that cannot be helped by standard treatments such as regular glasses, contacts, medication or even eye surgery. For those with AMD, a degenerative eye disease, impairment is caused to the macula, the part of the retina which is responsible for sharp vision in the central visual field. The disease causes a disruption in or blurring of central vision, but usually doesn’t affect peripheral vision.
Vision Impairment from AMD usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but on occasion disruptions in vision can be sudden. Early symptoms of vision loss from AMD include blurred areas in your central visual field or unusually distorted vision. While AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and treatment is known to slow advancement of the degeneration and subsequently prevent low vision. For individuals who have already lost acuity, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include senior citizens, females, Caucasians and individuals with light eye color, severe farsightedness or family members with the disease. Controllable risk factors include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and being overweight. Proper exercise and nutrition including certain nutrients has been linked to prevention.
Those who are living with low vision should consult with their eye doctor about low vision training and special equipment that can support a return to daily activities. After a proper assessment, a low vision professional can suggest helpful low vision aids such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive aids such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Because so many eye diseases can be prevented by early diagnosis, eye doctors recommend a routine annual eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to blindness prevention.