Macular Degeneration Facts

AMD affects an individual's central vision, which is necessary for driving, reading, recognizing faces, and performing close-up work. Learn more about macular degeneration ›

Low Vision Devices

Low vision is a condition that involves a minimal ability to see (particularly central vision) that is unresolved or uncorrected with traditional eyeglasses, contact lens, intraocular lens implants, or corrective surgery. However, in some cases, persons with low vision may be aided with special visual devices.

There are a variety of different causes of low vision, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • macular degeneration (the most common cause of low vision; involves damage to a person's central vision making it difficult to read, drive, or perform other daily activities that require fine, central vision)

  • aging (Aging is a risk factor for low vision, however, persons of any age may be affected.)

  • congenital defects (present at birth)

  • injury

  • disease (including diabetes)

  • other eye diseases (i.e., glaucoma, cataracts)

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Hope for Macular Degeneration

There is no cure for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) at this time, but treatment can slow progression of the disease and new treatments are in development.

People who lose their central vision to macular degeneration can often be helped by low-vision specialists. With the help of special low-vision devices, such as magnifying devices, large-print reading materials, or closed-circuit computers, people with macular degeneration can learn to use their remaining vision. Community organizations and support groups can help people with AMD and their families deal with vision loss and learn about other available resources.

High doses of certain vitamins may slow the vision loss caused by AMD. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) indicated that people at risk for developing advanced AMD may slow progression of vision loss by taking high doses of zinc, beta carotene, and vitamins C and E. The supplement combination tested was a daily dose of 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 15 mg of beta carotene, 80 mg of zinc (as zinc oxide), and two mg of copper (as cupric oxide). Talk to your health care provider before taking these supplements, because there may be health risks. If you are a smoker or a former smoker, high doses of beta carotene (vitamin A) may increase your risk for lung cancer. Doses of vitamin E higher than 400 IU have been associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular death.

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Living Better With Low Vision

People with low vision find everyday tasks -- reading mail, shopping, cooking, watching television -- difficult. This is because low vision cannot be improved by eyeglasses or contact lenses, eye surgery or medication.

Low vision typically results from eye diseases and health conditions, such as macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetes. Although new medications are available to treat one form of macular degeneration, the condition accounts for nearly 45 percent of all cases of low vision, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI).

Doctors usually can't restore lost eyesight, but people can make the most of what they have left.

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Scoping Out Sunglasses

You may think we wear sunglasses for comfort and fashion. But here's another important reason to wear sunglasses: to protect the health of your eyes.

If you spend long hours in the sun without protection, you increase your exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, an invisible form of radiation from sunlight. Overexposure to UV-A and UV-B radiation causes damage to the skin and eyes. You can damage the surface of your eyes in the same way you can get sunburned -- with just one exposure to extremely bright sunlight reflected off sand, snow or water. Exposure to sunlight over years can lead to vision loss from cataracts or macular degeneration.

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Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that affects an individual's central vision. AMD is the most common cause of severe vision loss among people over 60. Because only the center of vision is affected, people rarely go blind from this disease. However, AMD can make it difficult to read, drive, or perform other daily activities that require fine, central vision.

AMD occurs when the macula, which is located in the center of the retina and provides us with sight in the center of our field of vision, begins to degenerate. With less of the macula working, central vision – which is necessary for driving, reading, recognizing faces, and performing close-up work – begins to deteriorate.

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Your Guide to Macular Degeneration


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