February is AMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration) /Low Vision Awareness Month. In support of this awareness month, the low vision specialists at Berkeley Eye Center want to help shed a little light on low vision and age-related macular degeneration to keep you informed and help you stay healthy.
What Is Low Vision?
What do we mean when we say “low” vision? Low vision is a condition in which a person has trouble seeing even while wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses, taking medication, or having corrective surgery. Those with low vision may encounter problems performing everyday activities such as cooking, cleaning, reading, using a computer, watching television or navigating around the house or neighborhood. Vision loss can impact a person’s emotional health as well, leaving them feeling anxious, helpless and depressed.
While the majority of people afflicted with low vision are 65 or older, vision problems can happen at any age. Vision problems in older adults can result from age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. Inherited eye conditions, infectious and autoimmune eye diseases, and trauma are a leading cause of vision impairment among younger people.
Low Vision Is a Problem That Will Continue to Grow
As the senior population continues to expand, so will the number of people affected by vision problems. Recent studies funded by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health have determined that the number of Americans who are visually impaired — including those with low vision — is expected to double to more than 8 million by 2050.
What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of legal blindness in Americans ages 65 years and older. It affects more than 2.1 million Americans. According to the National Institutes of Health, that number is expected to more than double, hitting 5.4 million by 2050.
AMD is the degeneration of the eye’s macula, the area of the retina responsible for central vision and seeing fine details.
AMD is usually characterized by a slow loss of central vision. The first sign of AMD is often a haziness or blurring of the central vision and a decrease in the intensity and clarity of fine detail.
While a person with AMD may not become completely blind, they may experience a gradually increased blurriness or blind spot in their central vision. This may impair their ability to perform everyday activities such as reading or driving.
Dry AMD, which develops gradually and is less severe, is the most common form, and it is found in approximately 80% of AMD patients. The more severe form, wet AMD, is found in about 20% of patients and almost always begins as dry macular degeneration, making it critical that dry AMD patients have careful, regular monitoring.
Who is Most at Risk?
Age-Related Macular Degeneration most commonly occurs among people over the age of 60. AMD is more common in females than males and more common among Caucasians than any other race.
Certain factors may increase your chance of developing AMD. These include a family history of macular degeneration, obesity, high blood pressure, smoking cigarettes, high cholesterol, and eating few fruits or vegetables.
If a close relative has AMD, your risk of developing it is 50% higher.
There are no vision restoration options for patients with advanced or severe dry AMD, but early diagnosis provides options for preventing a worsening of the condition.
For patients who are diagnosed with AMD, combinations of certain vitamins taken as recommended by your eye doctor can keep vision from getting worse.
For wet AMD, laser surgery, photodynamic therapy and medications may be recommended as treatment.
To combat the effects of vision loss, low vision aids such as special lenses and therapy can help you better use the vision you have and improve the quality of your day-to-day life.
Strategies for Living with Low Vision
Berkeley Eye Center’s low vision specialists assess the limitations, capabilities and functional needs of their patients. The main goal is to preserve what vision a patient has left and work with them to develop strategies to cope with their reduced visual acuity. This includes training patients in the use of magnifying and other adaptive devices, teaching new skills that allow patients to maintain a safe and independent lifestyle, developing new strategies to navigate at home and in public, as well as providing helpful resources and support.
Schedule an Eye Exam with Our Houston Low Vision Specialists
If you are experiencing vision loss, it is important to get your vision checked by an eye care professional who specializes in treating the conditions that cause low vision.
Regular eye exams, a healthy life style, and wearing protective eyewear like sunglasses are just a few of the ways you can preserve your visual health. Don’t wait until you experience vision problems before seeing a Houston eye doctor.
The low vision specialists at Berkeley Eye Center possess the necessary training and experience to help people who have low vision preserve and use their remaining sight so they can continue to go about their daily activities as best as possible. We work closely with our patients to develop a vision rehabilitation plan that best addresses their individual needs.
Berkeley Eye Center has been protecting the eye sight of thousands of Texans for over 60 years. If it’s been a while since you’ve had a comprehensive eye exam, AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month is the perfect time to schedule an appointment. With convenient locations all across the Houston area and in surrounding communities, chances are good there’s a Berkeley Eye Center right in your neighborhood!
If you have experienced any changes in your eyesight, we encourage you to schedule an exam with one of our Houston low vision specialists — the sooner we spot any eye problems and start treatment, the greater your chances of preserving your vision.