February is dedicated to creating awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading source of blindness for seniors. AMD is one of the causes of low vision, a term eye care professionals use to categorize substantial visual impairment that cannot be corrected by usual treatments such as normal glasses, contact lenses, medication or even eye surgery. In the case of macular degeneration, a degenerative eye disease, damage is caused to the macula, the part of the retina which produces clear central vision. The disease causes a vision loss relating to central vision, but usually doesn’t affect the peripheral visual field.
Low vision due to AMD usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but rarely vision loss can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early symptoms of vision loss from AMD include blurred areas in your central vision or unusually distorted sight. Although AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and attention can slow advancement of the disease and therefore thwart low vision. For those who have already lost acuity, a normal life can be maintained with low-vision rehabilitation.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include senior citizens, women, Caucasians and individuals with blue eye color, severe farsightedness or family members with the disease. Controllable risk factors include smoking, hypertension, exposure to ultraviolet light and inactivity. Maintaining overall physical health and a proper diet has been shown to be preventative.
Those who suffer from low vision should consult with an optometrist about low vision rehabilitation and specialized equipment that can enable a return to daily activities. After a proper assessment, a low vision specialist can prescribe suitable low vision aids such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive aids such as electronic ''talking'' clocks and large-face printed material.
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 blindness prevention.