Age-related macular degeneration is a common occurrence in people over the age of 65, but that does not mean that it should rob people of sight. There are certain early signs to look for that should prompt immediate action. While it is normal to have reduced vision with age, it is not necessary to "just live with it" and suffer the consequences. Being properly educated on the warning signs and what to do if they occur should help seniors and their caregivers take effective action to prolong good vision for as long as possible.
The Most Common Symptom
The first symptom of macular degeneration is blurry vision. This issue usually occurs with both close up and distant vision, but it can occur slowly. The vision most affected is the center vision, which makes things look either fuzzy or as if there are shadows surrounding things. As the disease worsens, so do the symptoms. The worse the disease gets, the more the patient has difficulty distinguishing colors and making out details. In some cases, however, the symptoms can occur rather quickly and can accelerate rapidly, in which case medical attention is necessary right away.
Difficulty with Contrast
Contrast vision is necessary in order to see things like different textures. Think of stairs, or dips in the pavement - if such things are difficult to see, it could lead to serious injuries if the issue is not treated. One of the first things most people notice is the inability to determine the difference between different color hues. If a person notices this change or mentions it to a family member or caregiver, medical attention should be sought right away, before the disease worsens and risk of injury increases.
The Inability to Adjust to Different Light Levels
Lighting that goes from very bright to very dark, such as going from the bright sunlight to a dimly lit house, can be hard to adjust to for a person who has macular degeneration. If walking into a dimly lit room means that everything looks black, a person is showing signs of AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration). Taking several minutes to adjust to such changes in light is not normal. A person experiencing such lengthy adjustments needs to seek medical attention before the issue worsens.
A Constant Need for Bright Light
A need for brighter light to do everyday tasks, such as reading, writing, cooking, or participating in hobbies is another sign of AMD. Many people chalk it up to getting older and ignore the symptoms when in fact, it is a sure sign of macular degeneration and should be evaluated by a doctor right away. If a senior is constantly moving closer and closer to lights or frequently complaining about the lack of light in various rooms, an evaluation may be called for.
Constantly falling is not usually considered a vision problem, but it is. Someone who takes frequent tumbles may be having a problem with depth perception, which could be related to AMD. With difficulty seeing properly with distance, a person can misjudge and misstep. One or two falls may be chalked up to clumsiness or other reasons. If it keeps happening again and again, though, especially in combination with issues such as those that have been discussed above, the person needs to talk to a doctor.
Early detection of macular degeneration means better treatment and the prevention of possible serious injuries from compromised vision. Once the presence of the disease is detected, proper vision and occupational therapy to help correct the problem and prevent issues from occurring down the road can be implemented. The key is to have the disease diagnosed early on. Waiting too long means that therapy might not be enough to help treat the issue, and extensive surgery or a life compromised by an untreatable disease may be the results.
Persons over 65 and those who care about them should not assume that vision issues are a natural part of life at that age. A conversation with an eye doctor and/or a general practitioner may allay any concerns or else confirm the need to begin treatment. Understanding the symptoms and staying in close contact with the doctor is the only way to ensure vision retention throughout the aging process.
Boyd, K. (March 1, 2016). Macular Degeneration Treatment: How is AMD Treated? American Academy of Ophthalmology. Available at http://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/amd-treatment. Accessed on July 3, 2016.
Mayo Clinic Staff. Dry Macular Degeneration. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-macular-degeneration/home/ovc-20164874. Accessed on July 3, 2016.
Bright Focus Foundation. Disease Toolkit for Macular Degeneration. Available at http://www.brightfocus.org/macular/symptoms-and-signs. Accessed on July 3, 2016.