February is dedicated to increasing awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. AMD is the number one source of vision loss for senior citizens. Macular degeneration often leads to low vision, a phrase optometrists use to refer to major visual impairment that is also called “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. In the case of macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease, damage is caused to the macula, the part of the retina which enables sharp central vision. AMD causes a vision loss relating to the central vision zone, but typically doesn’t affect peripheral vision.
Low vision due to AMD usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but rarely disruptions in vision can be sudden. Early signs of low vision from AMD include shadowy areas in your central vision or unusually fuzzy sight. Although there is currently no cure for AMD, early diagnosis and treatment is known to slow progression of the degeneration and therefore 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 seniors, women, Caucasians and individuals with blue eye color, severe farsightedness or a genetic disposition. Risk factors that can be controlled include smoking, high blood pressure, exposure to UV light and obesity. Maintaining overall physical health and good nutrition has been shown to be preventative.
Those who suffer from low vision should speak to an eye doctor about low vision training and specialized equipment that can facilitate self-sufficiency. After an extensive assessment, a low vision specialist can suggest helpful low vision devices such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive aids such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Since so many eye diseases can be prevented by early diagnosis, eye doctors suggest a routine annual eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to blindness prevention.