February is National Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Low Vision Awareness Month. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people 65 and older. Low Vision is a term used to describe vision loss that is not correctable by glasses or surgery. A person with low vision is not necessarily legally blind. Low vision may describe a variety of vision loss, from a central acuity loss caused by AMD, or the loss of peripheral fields caused by glaucoma.
AMD affects a portion of the retina, in the back of the eye, called the macula. This part of the eye is highly sensitive to color and fine detail. The macula is used in tasks such as reading and recognizing faces from across the room.
There are two types of AMD, “wet” and “dry.” Dry AMD is the most common and progresses more slowly. Wet AMD is caused when unhealthy blood vessels form under the retina and leak or bleed, causing damage to the macula.
New treatments for AMD in recent years offer improved outcomes for patients, particularly with the wet form. Increased research into risk factors such as smoking, diet and nutritional supplements may further reduce the vision loss associated with this disease.
Early detection of AMD is the key to minimizing vision loss. A complete eye examination including dilation every one to two years is important, as is reducing risk factors such as smoking and overexposure to sunlight’s UV rays.
Acquired vision loss from AMD may have a negative impact on reading, work-related tasks, leisure activities, and everyday tasks such as cooking. Professionals such as Vision Rehabilitation Therapists (VRTs) provide the primary rehabilitation training for vision loss. VRT services are available from your state’s rehabilitation department, or local non-profit agency, usually at no out-of-pocket cost.
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