February has been announced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. AMD is the leading source of visual impairment for seniors. Macular degeneration often leads to low vision, a term eye doctors use to describe substantial vision loss that cannot be helped by standard treatments such as normal glasses, contact lenses, medication or even eye surgery. 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 sharp central vision. The disease causes a vision loss relating to the central vision zone, but usually leaves peripheral vision intact.
Vision loss due to AMD is usually progressive but occasionally disruptions in vision can be sudden. Early symptoms of low vision from AMD include blurred areas in your central visual field or very distorted sight. Although there is currently no cure for AMD, early diagnosis and attention is known to slow advancement of the degeneration and therefore thwart low vision. For those who have already experienced vision loss, a normal life can be maintained with low-vision rehabilitation.
Those with greater risk factors of AMD include senior citizens, women, Caucasians and people with blue eye color, severe farsightedness or family members with the disease. Risk factors that can be minimized include smoking, hypertension, exposure to ultraviolet light and being overweight. Proper exercise and diet including certain nutrients has been linked to prevention.
Those who are living with low vision should speak to their eye care professional about low vision training and special equipment that can enable independence. After an extensive eye exam, a low vision specialist can recommend helpful low vision aids such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive aids such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Since so many eye diseases can be halted by early diagnosis, optometrists recommend a routine yearly eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to prevention of vision loss.