All of our senses are precious to us, so it pays for aging parents and other seniors to take steps to ensure the health of their senses. In February, aging parents, spouses and others may want to focus attention on sight and seeing as part of Age-related Macular Degeneration/Low Vision Awareness Month.
Often abbreviated as AMD, age-related macular degeneration is defined by the National Eye Institute (NEI) as “a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older. It causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead.”
AMD progresses at different rates in different people, so it advances slowly in some, but very rapidly in others. By itself, AMD does not lead to complete blindness, but it does significantly impact a person’s ability to see well enough to complete many basic tasks.
The major risk factor for AMD is age, as it becomes more likely to occur after age 60. Other risk factors include smoking, genetics, and race (AMD is more common among people of Caucasian background).
The NEI says that “low vision is a visual impairment that cannot be corrected with standard eyeglasses, contact lenses, medication, or surgery. With low vision, activities like reading, shopping, cooking, writing, and watching TV may be hard to do.” Approximately 3 million people age 40 and up have low vision, and that number will rise to 5 million by 2030. Women make up more than 60% of the cases of low vision.
AMD is one of the causes of low vision. Other common causes include glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy.
The sooner low vision (including AMD) is diagnosed, the better. Early intervention helps to prevent or slow the loss of more vision. Aging parents and other seniors should make sure that they obtain thorough eye examinations on a regular basis. They should be sure to ask their doctors to check for AMD or any signs of low vision and to discuss any changes they should make to protect their vision.