This month has been declared age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the number one cause of visual impairment for individuals age 65 and over. Macular degeneration often results in low vision, a term eye care professionals use to describe major vision loss that is sometimes called “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. In the case of macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease, damage is caused to the macula, the area of the retina which is responsible for clear central vision. AMD causes a vision loss relating to the central vision zone, but usually doesn’t affect the peripheral visual field.
Vision Impairment due to AMD is usually gradual but on occasion vision loss can be sudden. Early symptoms of vision impairment from AMD include shadowy areas in your central visual field or unusually fuzzy sight. Although AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and treatment is known to slow progression of the disease and therefore thwart vision impairment. For individuals who have already suffered from vision impairment, a normal life can be maintained with low-vision rehabilitation.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include seniors, females, Caucasians and people with blue eyes, severe farsightedness or family members with the disease. Risk factors that can be minimized include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and obesity. Paying attention to overall physical health and a proper diet has been determined to be preventative.
Individuals who are living with low vision should speak to their eye care professional about low vision training and special devices that can facilitate self-sufficiency. After a proper assessment, a low vision professional can recommend appropriate low vision devices such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive aids such as electronic ''talking'' clocks and large-face printed material.
While AMD is more common in the elderly, anyone can be affected and therefore it is recommended for everyone to schedule an annual eye exam to assess eye health and learn about ways to prevent AMD and low vision.