February has been announced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the number one source of vision loss for seniors. Macular degeneration can result in low vision, a term eye care professionals use to describe substantial vision loss that cannot be corrected by usual measures such as regular glasses, contact lenses, medication or even eye surgery. For those with AMD, a degenerative eye disease, damage is caused to the macula, the part of the retina which produces sharp vision in the central visual field. The disease causes a disruption in or blurring of the central vision zone, but usually leaves peripheral vision intact.
Low vision due to AMD is usually progressive but rarely impairment can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early signs of low vision from AMD include blurred areas in your central vision or very distorted vision. While there is currently no cure for AMD, early detection and treatment is known to stop progression of the disease and subsequently prevent vision loss. For those who have already suffered from vision impairment, a normal life can be maintained with low-vision rehabilitation.
Those at higher risk of AMD include senior citizens, women, Caucasians and people with blue eye color, severe hyperopia (farsightedness) or family members with the disease. Controllable risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, exposure to UV light and being overweight. Maintaining overall physical health and good nutrition has been determined to be preventative.
Individuals who are living with low vision should consult with their eye doctor about low vision training and special equipment that can enable a return to daily activities. After an extensive examination, a low vision professional can suggest helpful low vision devices such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive devices such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.
Since so many eye diseases can be treated only by early diagnosis, optometrists recommend a routine yearly eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to blindness prevention.