AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month

Education is the very first and arguably the most important step in fighting Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). That’s why February has been deemed National AMD/Low Vision Awareness Month. Throughout the entire month of February an awareness campaign revolves around raising awareness about AMD and low vision, simply because these disorders have a huge impact on people of all ages, and yet not many people are aware what AMD or low vision is, their symptom, risk factors, and how to manage it if they are living with any of these disorders. By working together, we can help educate patients and the general public about the symptoms, risk factors and treatment options for this devastating disease.

There is no pain associated with AMD, and it can advance so slowly that people notice little change in their vision. However, others find that the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in both eyes. Risk factors for AMD include being more than 50 years old, a family history of AMD, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels. AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail. The macula is located in the center of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The retina instantly converts light, or an image, into electrical impulses and then sends these impulses, or nerve signals, to the brain.

In the United States, the most common causes of low vision are AMD or Age-Related Macular Degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss affecting more than 15 million adults aged 50 and up. Low vision is a general term used to indicate partial sight or sight that cannot be fully corrected with medications, eye glasses, contact lenses, or surgery. Specialized equipment, such as magnification devices and computer access software are used to help sufferers maximize their remaining vision. In other cases, sufferers with extremely low vision are trained to do things using alternative ways, such using their sense of hearing or sense of touch with the help of modern technology.

A low vision examination is quite different from the basic examination routinely performed by primary care optometrists and ophthalmologists. A low vision examination includes a review of your visual and medical history, and places an emphasis on the vision needed to read, cook, work, study, travel, and perform and enjoy other common activities. The goals of a low vision exam include assessing the functional needs, capabilities, and limitations of your vision, assessing ocular and systemic diseases, and evaluating and prescribing low vision therapies. The low vision examination takes much longer than a typical eye exam, but the information gained can be invaluable. No matter what your visual acuity, it is important to understand any diagnosis you may receive and to keep your eyes as healthy as you possibly can.

There are two forms of AMD: wet and dry. It is possible to experience both forms at the same time, in one or both eyes. There is no treatment for dry AMD but doctors have found a link between nutrition and the progression of dry AMD. Introducing low-fat foods and dark leafy greens into your diet can slow vision loss and may even increase your overall wellness. If wet AMD is detected early, laser treatment is a popular method to help prevent severe vision loss.

Celeste Botonakis

On the Nursing Assistant Guides blog, certified medical assistant Celeste Botonakis explores the daily life of a CMA. She'll keep you up-to-date with the latest on what’s happening in the field, and provides tips for those who are interested in becoming a medical or nursing assistant. Celeste has served in the medical field for over six years, and is passionate about helping people. She currently works at CSR Primary Care in Skokie, Illinois. Click here to learn more about Celeste Botonakis and