February is age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the foremost cause of visual impairment for individuals age 65 and over. AMD often leads to low vision, a term eye doctors use to refer to substantial visual impairment that cannot be helped by standard treatments such as regular eye glasses, contact lenses, medicine or even surgical procedures. For those with AMD, a degenerative eye disease, damage occurs to the macula, the part of the retina which enables clear central vision. AMD causes a disruption in or blurring of the central vision zone, but typically doesn’t affect the peripheral visual field.
Vision loss from AMD usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but rarely impairment can be sudden. Early symptoms of vision loss from AMD include blurred areas in your central vision or unusually fuzzy vision. While AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early diagnosis and treatment can stop advancement of the degeneration and subsequently prevent vision impairment. For those who have already lost acuity, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include individuals over 65, women, Caucasians and individuals with blue eye color, severe farsightedness or a genetic disposition. Controllable risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, exposure to UV light and inactivity. Proper exercise and nutrition including certain nutrients can reduce your risk.
Those who are living with low vision should speak to an optometrist about low vision training and specialized equipment that can enable self-sufficiency. After a thorough examination, a low vision expert can help you obtain helpful low vision devices such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive aids such as electronic ''talking'' clocks and large-face printed material.
Since so many eye diseases can be halted by early diagnosis, optometrists recommend a routine annual eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to prevention of vision loss.