We’ve all heard about it, we all know someone with it and we all fear having that diagnosis. What exactly is macular degeneration and do we need to fear it?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a chronic eye condition that often affects people 50 yrs and older and is the leading cause of severe vision loss in those over 60. It affects the part of the retina called the macula. Since the macula controls central vision (which we use for reading and recognizing faces), changes in the macula can cause symptoms ranging from blurred or slightly distorted central vision to a blind spot in the center of your vision. Symptoms usually develop gradually. Most cases of AMD begin as the dry form with 15% advancing to the wet form, which can cause rapid and severe loss of central vision. Immediate evaluation by your eye doctor is critical to preventing vision loss.
There is no treatment available to reverse macular degeneration, but there are treatments which can slow the progression of the disease and preserve your vision. Most people affected can continue to live relatively normal, productive lives.
There are many different ways to cope with impaired vision:
1. Be sure to optimize the vision you have with the right glasses.
2. Use large-print books and magazines.
3. Magnifiers can help you read more easily.
4. Enlarge the font size on your computer.
5. Use proper lighting in your home and remove any home hazards.
6. One of the best recommendations is to not become socially isolated. It is common to become frustrated when unable to recognize friends’ faces. Don’t hesitate to ask people to greet you and tell you their names so you can greet them back.
The most important points to remember should you be diagnosed with AMD:
- Central vision is affected but not peripheral vision. You will still have usable vision.
- You are not alone. Two low vision support groups meet monthly in Billings. You can attend and learn about new research, magnification aids, and other important resources available to help you live an independent and productive life. Call for more information 406-252-6608.
- Regular eye exams are necessary in order to preserve your vision consult your optometrist or ophthalmologist today.