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Home » What's New » This February Spread the Word About AMD and Low Vision

This February Spread the Word About AMD and Low Vision


We all know why we need to wear sunglasses and sunscreen in the summer. Winter, however, can be deceiving. It's an illusion to assume that we are safe from sunburns during the colder season.

Snow acts as a powerful mirror for sunlight and magnifies the effects of UV rays which would otherwise be absorbed by the ground. As a result, the eyes are exposed to both the UV radiation bouncing back from the snowy carpet and the rays shining down directly from the sun.

If your family is skiing or snowboarding up in the mountains, you need to be even more careful! UV rays are more powerful at higher altitudes. Another important factor to remember is that ultraviolet radiation penetrates through clouds, so even if the sun is hidden behind them, it can still damage your eyes.

Prevent overexposure to sunlight by wearing sunglasses that absorb at least 95% of ultraviolet radiation when you go outside, no matter what time of year it is. Even though you want to look great in your shades, the most important part of choosing sunglasses is making sure they provide adequate protection against UV. Make sure the lenses are 100% UV blocking by looking for an indication that they block all light up to 400 nanometers - UV400. The good news is you don't necessarily have to pay more for full coverage for your eyes. Dozens of reasonably priced options exist that still provide total ultraviolet protection.

Another important factor in selecting sun wear is the size of the lenses. You want to make sure your glasses cover as much of the area around your eyes as possible. The more coverage you have, the less harmful radiation will be able to penetrate. Lenses that wrap around the temples will also prevent UV waves from entering from the sides.

If you like to ski or frolic in the snowy hills, you should be aware that the sun's rays are stronger at higher elevations, so you need to be especially careful to keep your eyes shaded on the slopes. In addition to sunglasses, it's a good idea to put on a wide brimmed hat that covers your eyes.

Make a point to be knowledgeable about proper eye protection throughout the year. Don't forget to wear your sunglasses.

February is age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. AMD is the number one cause of visual impairment for seniors. Macular degeneration is one of the causes of low vision, a phrase eye doctors use to describe major visual impairment that cannot be corrected by typical measures such as normal eye glasses, contacts, medication or even eye surgery. In the case of macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease, damage is caused to the macula, the part of the retina which is responsible for clear vision in the central visual field. The disease causes a blurring of the central vision zone, but usually leaves peripheral vision intact.

Vision Impairment due to AMD is usually progressive but rarely disruptions in vision can drastically appear seemingly overnight. Early symptoms of vision impairment from AMD include blurred areas in your central visual field or unusually distorted vision. While there is currently no cure for AMD, early diagnosis and treatment is known to slow advancement of the disease and subsequently avoid vision impairment. For those who have already experienced vision loss, a normal life can be maintained with low-vision rehabilitation.

Those with greater risk factors of AMD include seniors, females, Caucasians and people with light eyes, severe farsightedness or family members with the disease. Controllable risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, exposure to UV light and inactivity. Proper exercise and diet including certain nutrients has been linked to prevention.

Those who are living with low vision should speak to an eye care professional about low vision rehabilitation and specialized equipment that can facilitate a return to daily activities. After an extensive assessment, a low vision professional can recommend appropriate low vision devices such as reading telescopes and non-optical adaptive devices such as special light fixtures and signatureguides.

While AMD is more likely in seniors, it can affect anyone and therefore it is important for everyone to have a regular eye exam to assess eye health and discuss preventative measures for this and other serious eye diseases.