February is National AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month. AMD, also known as Age-Related Macular Degeneration, is the leading cause of vision loss affecting seniors.
It destroys the part of the retina called the macula which is primarily used for sharp central vision. This impairs their ability to see normally and perform necessary daily tasks. Low vision cannot be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, medication, or even surgery.
Low vision is often the result of an eye disease, such as glaucoma, cataracts, eye injuries, or AMD. The cause of AMD is not known, but there are a few risk factors. There are some factors we can control and some that we can’t control. The risk factors we are able to control include: smoking, artificial fats, sunlight, a diet high in processed foods, uncontrolled hypertension/high cholesterol, and obesity. Unfortunately, the risk factors we are unable to control are: advanced age, race, a gene variant that regulates inflammation, and family history.
The main symptoms of AMD include blurriness, wavy lines or a blind spot. You may, however, notice visual distortions such as straight lines/faces having a wavy appearance, doorways seem slanted, or objects appearing smaller or farther away than usual. The best response if you notice any of these symptoms is to visit your ophthalmologist for a diagnosis. The earlier the detection, the better appropriate care you are given.
Obviously, low vision impairs the vision of the affected person. It can also cause anxiety, depression, and even feelings of helplessness.
WHAT TO DO
If you are concerned about your vision because you feel you are at risk for AMD, the best thing to do is to visit your eye doctor for regular eye exams and for early detection of AMD. If you or a loved one has already been diagnosed with AMD, there are a few low-vision devices and resources that can help you lead a more independent life.