This month is dedicated to spreading awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. AMD is the foremost cause of blindness for seniors. AMD can result in low vision, a phrase eye care professionals use to categorize major vision loss that is also known as “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. For those with AMD, a degenerative eye disease, damage occurs to the macula, the area of the retina which produces sharp vision in the central visual field. The disease causes a blurring of the central vision zone, but usually doesn’t affect the peripheral visual field.
Vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but rarely vision loss can be sudden. Early signs of low vision from AMD include shadowy areas in your central visual field or unusually fuzzy sight. While there is currently no cure for AMD, early diagnosis and attention can stop advancement of the degeneration and subsequently prevent low vision. For individuals who have already lost acuity, a normal life can be maintained with low-vision rehabilitation.
Those at higher risk of AMD include senior citizens, females, Caucasians and individuals with blue eyes, severe hyperopia (farsightedness) or family members with the disease. Controllable risk factors include smoking, hypertension, exposure to UV light and being overweight. Maintaining overall physical health and a proper diet has been determined to be preventative.
Those who suffer from low vision should speak to an optometrist about low vision training and special devices that can support independence. After an extensive eye exam, a low vision specialist can prescribe helpful low vision aids such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive aids such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Because so many eye diseases can be treated only by early diagnosis, optometrists suggest a routine yearly eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to blindness prevention.