February is recognized as AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month. Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 60 and is a condition that often sneaks up gradually and slowly. Macular degeneration occurs when the macula, the small center of the retina, deteriorates and slowly stops sensing light coming into the eye. Macular degeneration can progress so slowly over time that it is sometimes not even noticed in the patient until their vision has gotten very poor.
While this condition does not usually result in blindness, it can so severely affect a person’s sight so that they only see through their peripheral or side vision–central vision is sometimes completely lost, rendering the patient unable to function as they used to. Reading, driving, and many areas of employment are some of the things that a person suffering from AMD would not be able to enjoy or continue doing as their vision deteriorates.
The cause of macular degeneration is unknown, but there are risk factors you can help control to decrease your chances of suffering from AMD, including keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol in check, watching your weight, and not smoking. Other uncontrollable risk factors to be aware of include age and family history or genetics.
There are some warning signs for this slow-progressing vision condition. You may be starting to develop AMD if you notice the distortion or blurriness of lines or faces, waviness of objects, an increasingly dark center of vision, or a blind spot. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should see your ophthalmologist as soon as possible.
While living with AMD can be difficult, millions of people have continued to live a full and rewarding life with the condition. It is important to carefully monitor your vision and see your ophthalmologist regularly. Adjusting to the reduced capability of your eyes to the fullest potential is possible and employing any of the technologies developed to help those with low vision will help you in finding solutions.