Macular degeneration (also known as age-related macular degeneration or AMD) can be quite hazardous in the workplace. Although this condition is not painful, it can cause difficulty for crucial visual tasks such as driving, reading and recognizing faces.
Macular degeneration affects macula, the central area at the back of the retina inside a person’s eyeball that is responsible for clear, central vision. When it occurs, a person may notice that his or her peripheral vision is still fine, but the front, central portion of the field of sight for looking straight at an object, becomes blurred, muddy or darkened.
There are two forms of macular degeneration, known as “dry” and “wet." Dry AMD cases develop from a gradual thinning and weakening of the macula area and tend to progress slowly. In the case of wet macular degeneration, blood vessels break inside the eye, leak blood into the area, and cause more rapid vision loss. It is also possible for dry macular degeneration to progress to wet macular degeneration.
Although macular degeneration is most commonly associated with advanced age, research shows that high UV exposure on an ongoing basis can increase its likelihood. Job settings that expose workers to long hours of outdoor sun exposure increase the risk of macular degeneration, especially if there is glare from snow or water.
In these kinds of work environments, wearing 100 per cent UVA/UVB blocking eyewear is essential. Medical evidence also shows that the incidence of the condition is reduced with good lifestyle choices, such as a healthy diet (lots of vegetables, especially beta-carotene and anti-oxidants, while avoiding fatty foods), and avoiding smoking.
As there is currently no cure for dry macular degeneration, and it cannot be reversed, it is important to take steps to manage this eye disease. If you start to develop dry macular degeneration, your doctor of optometry may be able to provide treatments and advice to help slow or prevent progression of the condition. Wet macular degeneration can sometimes be mitigated with photodynamic therapy (PDT) — especially with early detection.
In addition, a doctor of optometry can provide low-vision aids (special lenses, etc.) to help a patient to get maximum functioning from his or her remaining vision. The optometrist can also recommend vitamins to slow progression of the condition.
The article was writen with input from the Alberta Association of Optometrists.
Brian Furman is the director of vision care programs at eyesafe, a program administered by the Alberta Association of Optometrists to promote workplace eye safety by providing prescription safety glasses, eyewear accessories and services provided by doctors of optometry. Visit www.eyesafe.ca
for more information.