Macular Degeneration / Low Vision

We care about your vision at Artisan Optics Boise Idaho

February is macular degeneration and low vision awareness month. There seems to be a misconception of the terms low vision/blindness. Low vision/blindness is more than not being able to see anything. It can include decreased visual acuity, decreased peripheral vision (tunnel vision), partial vision, or even blind spots in the vision that cannot be corrected with refractive aids (glasses or contacts), surgery, or medication. Some people think that because they can't see without their glasses that they are blind; however, in literal terms, because they can see with their glasses they are not blind.

Macular degeneration can compromise your vision if not diagnosed early.

Low vision can be prevalent at any age but it is more common in older individuals. One in twenty-eight adults over the age of forty suffer from low vision. The most common risk factors for having low vision are:

  • Age – aging is most significant risk factor in terms of low vision. This is important when considering the Baby Boomer population is increasing in age, a large portion of the population will be susceptible to health and vision changes.

  • Gender – 2/3 of visually impaired individuals are female. This is due to a combination of contributing factors including longer life span and higher prevalence of auto-immune conditions.

  • Ethnicity – African-Americans have a higher risk of developing glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy while caucasians are at a higher risk of developing macular degeneration.

  • Family history – good or bad, genetics contribute to health. If there is a positive family history of an ocular condition, there is an increased chance of developing the same disorder.

  • Smoking – While we know that smoking is detrimental to our health, it also affects the eyes! Smoking increases the likelihood of developing macular degeneration and cataracts. This could mean earlier onset and increased symptoms. It is time to stop smoking!!

  • Exposure to UVA/UVB light – UV light rays have a damaging affect on the tissues of the eye as well as the skin. It is important to wear sunglasses (see our blog on sunglasses)

  • Unhealthy diet – The old wives tale that carrots are good for your eyes is actually not a wives tale. Eating a diet rich in vitamin A has been shown to be helpful in maintaining macular health and function.

Your vision is our primary concern at Artisan Optics Boise Idaho

Low vision can be from a variety of causes, and the visual affect can be different for each individual. Some of the most common causes of low vision are:

  • Cataracts – cataracts can be a natural part of aging but they can also increase in severity with unhealthy lifestyle choices. Cataracts may progress more rapidly with an unhealthy diet and smoking.

  • Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) – RP is an inherited disease. Generally beginning in adolescents, these individuals have difficulty seeing at night, adapting to lighting changes, and lose their ability to utilize their peripheral vision.

  • Diabetic Retinopathy – diabetic retinopathy is damage within the layers of the retina from weakened blood vessels. Ocular changes with uncontrolled blood glucose levels can lead to hemorrhaging, macular edema, and retinal detachments. (See our diabetes blog)

  • Glaucomaglaucoma is a progressive loss of peripheral vision (See last months blog on glaucoma)

  • Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) – AMD is a breakdown of the retinal cells within the macula that are responsible for central vision. AMD is the most common cause of vision loss over the age of 65.

Macular degeneration can compromise vision if not properly treated

As previously mentioned, age plays a major role in having low vision. This is true with age-related macular degeneration. There are two types of AMD:

  • Dry AMD – accounts for 85-90% of AMD cases. Cellular break down occurs at the macula creating deposits (aka drusen) within the retinal layers.

  • Wet AMD – accounts for 10-15% of AMD cases. New blood vessels begin to develop that leak within the retinal layers causing visual deterioration. Wet AMD is more detrimental to vision than dry AMD.


As in many causes of ocular disease, physiological changes can occur before a patient is symptomatic. In early AMD individuals may not have any changes in their visual acuity; however, an eye-care provider can begin to see drusen build up. Early diagnosis is the key. That means having annual comprehensive eye examinations! If macular changes are noted, your eye care provider may order further testing, such as an OCT (see our blog on OCT) to evaluate the layers of the macula.


Early intervention may also be indicated, and vary, depending on a patient's current lifestyle. Again, healthy eating and discontinuing smoking will be recommended. A specific vitamin, AREDS or AREDS 2, may be recommended to help provide nutrients to sustain macular cells.


Researchers are working to determine the most appropriate treatments for macular degeneration to maintain functional vision. Currently there is no treatment to regenerate damaged cells. Treatment options range from Anti-VEGF injections, photodynamic therapy, and laser surgery. Anti-VEGF injections have been shown to have positive effects of maintaining visual acuity a few years following treatment.


Low vision and macular degeneration are conditions that have the potential to affect anyone. Be aware of the risk factors and have annual comprehensive eye examinations to ensure early detection.

Early diagnosis is the key to healthy vision at Artisan Optics Boise Idaho

Posted by Artisan Optics at 2/14/2017 8:10:00 PM
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