Age-related Macular Degeneration and Low Vision Awareness Month is observed in February to promote eye health and improve the quality of life for individuals with vision disorders. Those with normal vision can use this opportunity to learn about recommended practices that maintain or improve eye health.
Vision impairment is defined as having 20/40 or worse vision in one or both eyes, even with the aid of corrective lenses. Vision problems increase with age, and many people over age 65 develop low vision, which is defined as 20/70 vision or worse in one or both eyes that is not correctable by lenses or surgery.
In 2010, approximately 3.4 million people in the United States over the age of 40 were visually impaired and 1.6 million people over the age of 50 had age-related macular degeneration, which is a common cause of vision impairment in older adults. Age-related macular degeneration mainly affects central vision, which is needed for detailed tasks such as reading and driving.
Other common causes of vision impairment and low vision include clouding of the lenses of the eyes (cataract), increased pressure within the eyes (glaucoma), and a breakdown of the light-sensing tissue at the back of the eyes caused by complications from diabetes (diabetic retinopathy). Infections or trauma can also impair vision. Rare genetic eye disorders can cause vision impairment that is present at birth or develops over time. Examples of genetic eye disorders that cause varying degrees of vision impairment include Fuchs endothelial dystrophy, Leber hereditary optic neuropathy, cone-rod dystrophy, Usher syndrome, aniridia, ocular albinism, and retinitis pigmentosa.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that half of all vision loss can be prevented. Eye exams and regular screening for signs of the major causes of vision impairment can provide the opportunity to begin treatment before long-term damage to the eyes is done.
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