Low Vision Awareness for Seniors
February is Low Vision Awareness Month.
The most common eye disease causing vision loss in America is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This is a disease that affects the retina of the eye which receives light and sends signals to the brain so that you can see. It affects patients by making reading more difficult, driving more dangerous, and engaging in any activity which requires good vision more difficult to accomplish.
Fortunately, patients rarely become completely blind, however, low vision is a problem which changes patients’ lives.
Most AMD patients are over age 50. If you have a history of this eye disease in your family, then you will want to have your eye doctor check your vision regularly to see if you might have AMD. Often, the disease progresses slowly, and its symptoms may be overlooked. If you are overweight, a smoker, and have uncontrolled blood pressure, then you have a higher risk for AMD also.
There are two kinds of age-related macular degeneration. Dry or atrophic macular degeneration is the most common type of AMD. In this form of AMD, small deposits called drusen cause the tissues of the eye to thin, resulting in wavy distortions of vision. The central field of vision deteriorates because of the thinning of the retina. The exudative, or wet form of the disease progresses more rapidly and results in more severe loss of vision. In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and macula. They can cause leaking of fluid and quickly destroy central vision, though peripheral vision will remain. Rarely, does AMD cause total blindness, however.
There is no cure for AMD. Combinations of vitamins and minerals called the AREDS formula may reduce disease progression. Laser surgery may also be an option for some patients. Eye doctors can help the patient monitor their vision for changes. They can also recommend some low vision aids that can help patients with reading and other challenges such as sewing, computer work, or tool use so they can function safely as much as possible.