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Home » What's New » February is Age-related Macular Degeneration and Low Vision Awareness Month

February is Age-related Macular Degeneration and Low Vision Awareness Month

This month is dedicated to increasing awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of visual impairment for senior citizens. Macular degeneration is one of the causes of low vision, a phrase optometrists use to categorize major visual impairment that cannot be helped by typical measures such as regular glasses, contact lenses, medication or even surgical procedures. In the case of macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease, damage is caused to the macula, the area of the retina which produces sharp vision in the central visual field. AMD causes a vision loss relating to central vision, but typically doesn’t affect the peripheral visual field.

Vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration usually comes on gradually and painlessly over time but occasionally impairment can be sudden. Early symptoms of vision impairment from AMD include blurred areas in your central vision or unusually distorted sight. While there is currently no cure for AMD, early diagnosis and attention can stop advancement of the disease and subsequently avoid vision loss. For those who have already suffered from vision impairment, a normal life can be maintained with low-vision rehabilitation.

Those with greater risk factors of AMD include individuals over 65, females, Caucasians and individuals with blue eye color, severe farsightedness or a genetic disposition. Risk factors that can be minimized include smoking, hypertension, exposure to ultraviolet light and inactivity. Maintaining overall physical health and a proper diet has been determined to be preventative.

Individuals who suffer from low vision should speak to their eye care professional about low vision training and special devices that can facilitate independence. After an extensive assessment, a low vision specialist can suggest helpful 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 prevented by early diagnosis, eye doctors suggest a routine yearly eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to prevention of vision loss.