February is age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading source of vision loss for senior citizens. Macular degeneration can result in low vision, a term eye doctors use to refer to significant visual impairment that cannot be corrected by usual measures such as normal glasses, contact lenses, medicine or even surgical procedures. For those with AMD, a degenerative eye disease, impairment occurs to the macula, the area of the retina which enables sharp central vision. The disease causes a blurring of the central vision zone, but usually leaves peripheral vision intact.
Low vision from age-related macular degeneration usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but occasionally disruptions in vision can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early signs of low vision from AMD include shadowy areas in your central visual field or very distorted vision. Although AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early detection and treatment is known to halt progression of the degeneration and subsequently avoid low vision. For individuals who have already experienced vision loss, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include individuals over 65, females, Caucasians and people with light eye color, severe farsightedness or family members with the disease. Risk factors that can be controlled include smoking, hypertension, exposure to ultraviolet light and inactivity. Proper exercise and nutrition including certain nutrients has been linked to prevention.
Those who suffer from low vision should speak to their optometrist about low vision training and special equipment that can facilitate independence. After a thorough examination, a low vision specialist can prescribe appropriate low vision aids such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive devices such as electronic ''talking'' clocks and large-face printed material.
Since AMD and other eye diseases can be halted by early diagnosis, eye doctors recommend a routine annual eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to prevention of vision loss.