February is dedicated to spreading awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. AMD is the foremost cause of blindness for senior citizens. AMD often leads to low vision, a phrase eye doctors use to categorize substantial visual impairment that is also known as “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. In the case of macular degeneration, a degenerative eye disease, damage occurs to the macula, the part of the retina which produces sharp vision in the central visual field. The disease causes a vision loss relating to central vision, but usually doesn’t affect the peripheral visual field.
Low vision from AMD is usually progressive but rarely vision loss can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early signs of low vision from AMD include shadowy areas in your central vision or very fuzzy sight. Although AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early diagnosis and attention is known to halt advancement of the disease and subsequently avoid vision impairment. 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 individuals over 65, women, Caucasians and individuals with light eye color, severe hyperopia (farsightedness) or a genetic disposition. Risk factors that can be controlled include smoking, high blood pressure, exposure to UV light and obesity. Proper exercise and diet including certain nutrients can reduce your risk.
Those who are living with low vision should consult with their eye care professional about low vision rehabilitation and specialized devices that can support a return to favorite activities. After an extensive eye exam, a low vision professional can suggest suitable low vision devices such as magnifiers and non-optical adaptive aids such as electronic ''talking'' clocks and large-face printed material.
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.