February is Macular Degeneration/Low Vision Awareness Month

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss among people over 60 years old. It is caused by changes to the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for clear, sharp vision. AMD alone does not cause complete blindness, but it can cause a loss of central vision making it difficult to see detail and objects straight ahead. This type of loss can interfere with daily activities such as the ability to drive, read, cook, complete small detailed tasks, and identify faces.

There are two types of AMD, the wet and dry form. In dry AMD, the macula slowly deteriorates over time as deposits (drusen) accumulate in the tissue and/or pigmentary changes occur. Severe central vision loss can occur in the late stages but it’s usually a slow progressing condition. Currently, there are no preventative treatments for dry AMD. However, studies show that some people with the condition may benefit from nutritional supplements.

Wet AMD is often considered the more severe form of AMD because significant vision loss can occur rapidly and without warning. This type of AMD is caused by newly formed blood vessels that leak fluid under the macula. Unlike dry AMD, there are treatment options available such as laser therapy, or most commonly, injections into the eye. However, early detection and prompt treatment is the most important factor in minimizing visual loss. Dry AMD can progress to wet AMD at any time.

Remember: There is no cure for AMD but some treatments may help delay its progression and/or limit visual loss. Early detection is an important factor in limiting visual loss, which is why we recommend yearly dilated eye examinations. If you’ve been diagnosed with AMD and you’re having difficulty with daily activities, such as those mentioned above, you may benefit from another type of vision exam; a low vision consultation.

Low vision refers to a reduced level of vision that cannot be improved with regular eye glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery. It may result from certain conditions such as AMD, glaucoma, or diabetes. As mentioned previously, this type of vision loss makes it difficult to accomplish everyday tasks such as reading, writing, shopping, watching TV, cooking, and recognizing faces. During a low vision exam, special low vision devices, tools, and techniques are used and discussed in order to help make the most of your remaining sight. With these adaptations and with the help of low vision specialists, many people with reduced vision are still able to accomplish and enjoy their daily activities.

For more information on age-related macular degeneration and low vision, please visit the American Optometric Association website at www.aoa.org.

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