AMD: What Exactly is it?

Written on 02/22/2021

February is Low Vision Awareness Month. It is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about low vision and vision rehabilitation within your communities. 

Low vision is defined as having difficulty seeing even with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery. This can make everyday tasks difficult to do. Although low vision historically begins to occur around age 65 or older, the age has lowered to 50 in many instances.

For Americans aged 50 years or older, the leading cause of vision loss is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). When AMD damages the macula, the center part of a person’s vision may become blurred or wavy and a blind spot may develop. Other leading causes of vision loss are diabetic retinopathy, cataract and glaucoma. They can all be caused by disease, birth defects or eye injuries. 

AMD and eye disease affect millions of people but describing vision loss can be difficult. It’s common to feel anger, grief and depression when you have vision loss of any kind. However, staying determined and persistent can be the key towards leading a “normal” lifestyle, even when diagnosed.

It’s important to know your risk for AMD, how to get help and how to continue living life if you are met with it. Educating yourself on vision awareness is the first step towards bringing awareness to others, too.

So, what increases a person’s risk for AMD? Studies suggest:

  • Family history of eye disease
  • Aging
  • Race (caucasians have a higher rate of AMD)
  • Sex (females have a higher rate of AMD)
  • Light-colored eyes
  • Smoking
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Obesity
  • High sun exposure
  • Poor diet
  • Missing regular comprehensive dilated eye exams

If you or someone in your circle is diagnosed with AMD, there are a variety of vision aids available such as special glasses, computers screen enlargers, large print books and many more.

Low vision should not decrease one’s daily habits. With technology continuously advancing and people with varying (dis)abilities living full-functioning lives, there is hope that all communities can become more aware of the needs of people with vision impairments by listening to their ideas, experiences and criticisms. Low vision is a chance to see the world through an empowered and resilient way by learning to advocate for yourself and others.

For more information on low vision or AMD, please visit lowvision.preventblindness.org.