Low vision may be caused by a wide variety of eye conditions and disorders. Some of these include: Age-related Macular Degeneration (also known as AMD).
AMD is a degenerative disease of the retina that causes progressive loss of vision in the center of the eye. Some people describe it as having a spot or blurry space in the middle of their vision. This interferes with daily tasks such as driving and reading.
There are two types of macular degeneration, dry and wet. Dry AMD is the result of yellow-white deposits called drusen that accumulate under the macula ( the central portion of the retina). At this time, the cause of these deposits is unknown. In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessel growth forms under the macula and leaks fluid damaging the photoreceptor cells. Wet AMD can progress rapidly and cause serious damage. If caught early, laser surgery may be able to prevent extensive vision loss.
The risk of developing macular degeneration increases with age and the disease is the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 55, particularly women. While it significantly reduces vision, AMD does not cause total blindness.
While activities of daily living can be compromised by low vision, there are solutions to help make the most of the activities you value. Lighting is always the first item because we need more light to see better as we age, even if we do not have a condition such as AMD. Brighter lights, positioned so as not to increase glare and motion-activated lights in hallways, bathrooms and outside walkways are recommended.
There are adaptive devices such as large print keyboards and telephone key pads, talking clocks and watches, magnifying mirrors and lighted glasses. Besides the products themselves, safety issues in the home should be addressed. Minimizing clutter in walkways is critical to prevent falls. The use of contrast is also a key- an example is placing a dark color tape around the edge of a light switch that is mounted on a light colored wall. This will make the switch easier to see.
There are organizations that provide classes to teach adaptative skills for living with low vision. There are also support groups for the low vision community and families in order to better understand the choices and skills to live with low vision. The Braille Institute, Lighthouse and local centers for the blind are some of the organizations that provide vision specialists to help individuals and families.