Macular degeneration

What is low vision?

I have read two definitions:

  • “Low vision is the term used to refer to a visual impairment that is not correctable through surgery, pharmaceuticals, glasses or contact lenses. It is often characterised by partial sight, such as blurred vision, blind spots or tunnel vision. Low vision can impact people of all ages, but is primarily associated with older adults.”and,
  • “Low vision is ‘not enough vision to do whatever it is you need to do’, which can vary from person to person”.

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Your vision can deteriorate with age; however, vision loss does not have to be an accepted part of growing old. A yearly eye examination by an optometrist or vision specialist can identify potential vision problems before they occur. In my case a simple trip to the optometrist to organise a new pair of reading glasses revealed the fact I have Age Related Macular Degeneration. I still needed the new reading glasses, and I was given a referral to an eye specialist who is now treating my macular disease.

Because of this early diagnosis the specialist has told me “I will have very useful vision for a long time”. I am now 63 and a bit so ‘a long time’ sounds like very good news to me.
Some of the more common causes of low vision include:

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): AMD is the leading cause of vision loss, for example in the USA it accounts for nearly 50% of all low vision cases. It is caused when the macular breaks down which can cause the loss of central vision, please see this link for more information about AMD.

Glaucoma: is the second major cause of low vision and it can occur without warning. For more info about glaucoma please use this link.

Diabetic Retinopathy: Diabetic retinopathy affects blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye. It is a major cause of blindness and it is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes.

Cataracts: Most of the eye’s lens is made of water and protein, and the protein is arranged in an exact way to keep the lens clear. As we grow older some of the protein may clump together creating a cataract. Over time, it may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see.

Vision is also an important factor in maintaining balance. Since 2011 In the USA the rate of life-threatening injuries after a fall since has nearly doubled when compared to the previous decade.

It is a shock when you discover your vision loss cannot be reversed, however please remember it can be treated. So, organise the professional help that will provide you with the strategies and treatments to keep you active and safe. Also, why not have a look at the low vision aids we have created to assist in some of your most common daily activities, you will find everything you need here: www.ezidlabels.com.

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by John Owens – john@ezidlabels.comwww.ezidlabels.com

 

The Braille Alphabet

Louis Simon Braille (1809 – 1852) was born in Coupvray, France, the fourth child and only son of Simon-René Braille, a saddle and horse tack maker, and his wife Monique.

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When Braille was three years old, he injured one of his eyes while playing with his father’s leather making tools. This resulted in both his eyes becoming infected, and by the time Braille was five, he was completely blind. Although there were few options for blind children his parents wanted Braille to be educated, first at the local village school then via a scholarship to attend the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris.

This was the first school of its kind to educate blind students using a combination of oral instruction and raised-print books developed by the school’s founder. Braille did well at his studies and became an accomplished musician. And the crude raised-print books gave Braille the idea that a tactile alphabet would allow blind people to read and write.

In 1821, a retired soldier named Charles Barbier visited the school to share his invention called sonography. This was a complicated code used by soldiers to write and decode messages at night, using a system of twelve raised dots, without having to use a light. The army decided the system was too complicated, however Barbier thought the system might assist blind people.

Braille and some of the other students recognised the possibilities of sonography and over the next three years Braille worked to develop a much simpler system using six dots lined up in two columns of three dots each.

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Braille became an apprentice teacher at the school when he was 19 and in 1837 the school published the first book in braille. However, the school did not adopt the system. Nonetheless, by 1850, when tuberculosis forced Louis Braille to retire from teaching, his six-dot method was on its way to widespread acceptance.

Louis Braille died of his illness on January 6, 1852, in Paris, at the age of 43. Today, in most languages, braille is the standard form of communication used by blind people.

“Access to communication in the widest sense is access to knowledge, and that is vitally important for us if we are not to go on being despised or patronised by condescending sighted people. We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded that we are vulnerable. We must be treated as equals – and communication is the way we can bring this about.” Louis Braille 1841.

See the EZiD braille label here.

What is Macular Degeneration?

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Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 60. Because the disease develops as a person ages, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and it can be a source of significant visual disability. I have AMD. It occurs when the retina’s small central portion, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina, which sits at the back of the eye, is a thin layer of tissue containing millions of tiny light-sensing nerve cells. It records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain.

The macula is responsible for central vision in the eye, and it controls your ability to read, drive a car, recognise faces and colours, and see objects in fine detail.

md-eyeball-diagram

When the macula’s cells deteriorate, images are not received correctly. Initially macular degeneration does not affect vision. However, if the disease progresses, people experience a gradual decline in their ability to see object clearly and distorted vision. If the condition continues to worsen they will see dark or empty spaces blocking the central field of vision and diminished colour vision central vision.

Even so, because the rest of the retina is still working, they retain their peripheral vision, which is not as clear as central vision. At present macular degeneration is considered an incurable eye disease.

There are two main types of age-related macular degeneration:

Dry form. The “dry” form of macular degeneration is characterised by the presence of deposits, called drusen, in the macula. A few small drusen may not cause changes in vision; however, if they grow in size and number they may lead to the symptoms people find most noticeable when they read. In more advanced stages there is also a thinning of the light-sensitive layer of cells in the macula leading to tissue death.

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Photo taken in 2014 showing the drusen in my right eye.

Wet form. The “wet” form of macular degeneration is characterised by the growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula. These blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina, causing distortion of vision that makes straight lines look wavy, as well as blind spots and loss of central vision.

How is AMD Treated? Some doctors recommend vitamin supplements to reduce the progression of Dry AMD. I live in Sydney Australia and the treatment I adhere to includes taking vitamin supplements daily and I can confirm that my AMD has not deteriorated since I was first diagnosed 5 years ago.

The main treatment for wet AMD is injections of Lucentis. This treatment targets the VEGF protein (Vascular Endothelia Growth Factor). This protein promotes the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina. These injections may prevent further loss of vision.

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John Owens – 2016 john@ezidlabels.com   www.ezidlabels.com