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February is AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

February is AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects over 15 million adults over the age of 50. Macular degeneration is a progressive, usually painless disease that affects the macula, the spot on the retina at the back of the eye responsible for central vision, causing central vision to blur, but leaving peripheral vision intact. To understand how AMD affects your vision. Take your left hand and cover your left eye, now make a fist with your right hand. Take your right fist and place it directly in front of your right eye. The only thing you should see is images in your periphery or side vision. Now imagine that this is how you are to function within the world. The picture below gives you an example of AMD. In its earliest stages, AMD can be difficult to diagnose. In some cases, AMD progresses so slowly that many do not notice a change in their vision. In other cases, the deterioration is very rapid and can appear to happen overnight. Here is what it looks like to look through the eyes of someone with macular degeneration.

There are two forms of AMD: wet and dry. It is possible to experience both forms at the same time, in one or both eyes.

There are several risks factors for AMD in two categories:

Risk Factors You Cannot Control:

  • Age: AMD signs are present in about 14% of people under 64, 20% from 65 to 75 and up to 37% of people over 75.
  • Gender: AMD is more common in women than men.
  • Race: AMD is more common in Caucasians than other races. This may be partially due to light eye color.
  • Severe Farsightedness: Extreme farsightedness (hyperopia) is not common and is related to a severe distortion of the shape of the eye.
  • AMD in one eye: If you already have AMD in one eye, you have a high chance of developing it in the other eye.
  • Genetics: Learn about your family health history. If others in your family have AMD, you'll have a greater risk of developing it.

Risk Factors You Can Control:

  • Smoking: Tobacco appears to interfere with the absorption of lutein, an important antioxidant that protects the retina from damaging UV light. It also results in constricted blood vessels which decreases the amount of oxygen that can be delivered to the eye.
  • High Blood Pressure: Uncontrolled high blood pressure can damage the many blood vessels in the eye.
  • Exposure to Sunlight: Ultraviolet light can damage your retina and increase your chances of developing AMD. It can also speed up its development. So it is very important to protect your eyes when outdoors. Wear a hat and invest in good, high quality sunglasses that screen for 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Diet and Exercise: A balanced diet including green leafy vegetables are especially important. A healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise in conjunction with a healthy diet will contribute to good eye health.

See your eye care professional for an evaluation if you experience these symptoms of AMD

  • Straight lines appear wavy
  • Difficulty seeing at a distance
  • Decreased ability to distinguish colors
  • Inability to see details, such as faces or words in a book
  • Dark or empty spots block the center of your vision

What is Low Vision?

From the National Institutes of Health Senior Health Pages, we get a clear definition. Low vision is a visual impairment, not correctable by standard glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery, that interferes with a person's ability to perform everyday activities. People with low vision find everyday tasks difficult to do - even with the aid of regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery. Reading the mail, shopping, cooking, and seeing the TV and writing can seem challenging. Their eye care physician has advised them that there isn't much that can be done to improve their vision.

Low vision can result from a variety of diseases, disorders, and injuries that affect the eye. Many people with low vision have age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy. Age-related macular degeneration accounts for almost 45 percent of all cases of low vision. About 246 million people around the world have low vision. In California, Medi-Cal covers low-vision testing for those with vision impairment that is not correctable by standard glasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery and that interferes with a person’s ability to perform everyday activities (e.g., age-related macular degeneration).

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