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This February Spread the Word About Age-related Macular Degeneration and Low Vision

This month is dedicated to creating awareness of macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the number one cause of blindness for individuals age 65 and over. Macular degeneration is one of the causes of low vision, a term eye doctors use to describe substantial vision loss that is also called “legal blindness” or almost total blindness. In the case of macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease, damage is caused to the macula, the part of the retina which produces clear central vision. AMD causes a blurring of central vision, but usually doesn’t affect peripheral vision.

Vision Impairment due to age-related macular degeneration is usually gradual but rarely impairment can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early symptoms of low vision from AMD include shadowy areas in your central vision or very fuzzy sight. While AMD doesn’t have a cure yet, early diagnosis and treatment is known to stop progression of the disease and subsequently prevent vision loss. For individuals who have already suffered from vision impairment, low-vision rehabilitation and aids can help.

Those with greater risk factors of AMD include individuals over 65, women, Caucasians and people with light eye color, severe hyperopia (farsightedness) or family members with the disease. Risk factors that can be controlled include smoking, hypertension, exposure to ultraviolet light and being overweight. Paying attention to overall physical health and a proper diet has been shown to be preventative.

Individuals who suffer from low vision should speak to their eye doctor about low vision rehabilitation and specialized equipment that can facilitate a return to daily activities. After a proper examination, a low vision professional can suggest helpful low vision aids such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive devices such as electronic ''talking'' clocks and large-face printed material.

Because AMD and other eye diseases can be treated only by early diagnosis, eye doctors recommend a routine yearly eye exam for all ages. Your awareness can lead to prevention of vision loss.