February is Low Vision and Age-Related Macular Degeneration Month. It’s a mouthful and an eyeful so you know it’s important! If you or someone you care for has low vision or AMD, here’s what you need to know.
What is Low Vision?
Low vision is when someone has difficulty seeing even with glasses, contacts, medicine or surgery. In more technical terms low vision is defined as 20/60 or worse or a visual field less than 10. As of today almost 3 million Americans have low vision, which is expected to increase by 72% in 2030. Birth defects, eye injuries, eye diseases and even health disorders can cause low vision.
But the leading cause of low vision in the US? That would be macular degeneration.
What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration or AMD?
AMD is the most common cause of low vision and blindness in Americans 50 years and older. It’s a very common progressive disorder of the macula that slowly robs a person of their central vision field. The exact cause of AMD is unknown and there are also no known cures.
The macula is the part of your retina (a paper-thin tissue lining the back of your eye) that sees fine details, color and central vision. AMD causes the macula to wear down thereby causing central vision loss where you will not be able to see fine details up close or from a distance.
There are two types of Age-related macular Degeneration:
- Dry AMD is the most common and less severe form of macular degeneration. If you have dry AMD, colors may seem blurred or muted and faces may be hard to recognize or distinguish.
- Wet AMD affects only about 10% of people with macular degeneration and is the most advanced form. It develops in eyes that already have dry AMD and causes objects like signs to be blurry or distorted, straight lines may seem bent, colors and details may be warped and faces are even harder to recognize.
Symptoms of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
You may not notice any symptoms if you’re in the early stages of AMD, but they can worsen over time. Here’s what to look out for no matter what stage you’re in:
- Blind spots
- Blurry vision or central dark vision spots
- Wavy lines
- Distortions in colors
- Worsening or less clear vision
If you notice any of the above symptoms we recommend getting your vision evaluated by an eye care specialist as soon as possible.
Do you have these risk factors for AMD?
While the cause for AMD is unknown, both genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a role. Some risk factors you can control and some you can’t. The most common risk factors contributing to developing age-related macular degeneration are:
- Age: 50 years and older
- Genetics: higher chance of getting AMD if there is family history
- Race: higher chance of Caucasians developing AMD
- Gender: women are more likely to be affected
- Systemic diseases: heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
- Poor health habits: smoking and lack of exercise and obesity
- And other eye conditions
You can reduce your risk factors for macular degeneration by:
✔ Eating a healthy diet (leafy greens, fresh fruit, fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and albacore tuna).
✔ Avoiding smoking
✔ Exercising regularly
✔ Protecting the eyes from harmful UV light by wearing sunglasses or sunhat
✔ Getting regular eye exams and evaluations by your doctor or ophthalmologist
What can you do if you have AMD?
Don’t be discouraged – millions of people live with age-related macular degeneration! Over 2 million people in fact have AMD and are thriving.They’ve learned to adapt the way they read, play cards, watch TV or identify faces.
Not sure where to start? We recommend:
- Seeing an eye-care specialist
- Learning about vision rehabilitation
- Getting a good support care team in your corner
- Checking out our courses on Teachable
If someone you know or care for has low vision or age-related macular degeneration the best thing you can do is encourage them to get help.
We at Hope Vision Foundation hope that by sharing this information, you increase your knowledge of identification, prevention and treatment of AMD. Today, there is exciting and innovative technology, treatments and training to enhance the lives of people living with age-related macular degeneration!
We hope you’ll consider us a continued resource and friendly guide on your journey to empowerment.
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