When you think of February, chocolate hearts and flowers usually come to mind. On a slightly less romantic note, this month also is National Low Vision Awareness Month.
Low vision is characterized by having sight worse than 20/70 in your better-seeing eye, after correction by glasses, contact lenses or other types of intervention.
Low vision can be caused by diseases such as macular degeneration (age-related or genetic), glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or other inherited eye diseases.
Before I was diagnosed with juvenile macular degeneration when I was 12, I had no idea low vision was even a thing. Now, I care enough about it to write a whole column dedicated to low vision.
Currently, I have low vision — my better-seeing eye almost always corrects to 20/70. In the future, though, my vision will deteriorate to the point where I will have even worse low vision and then be legally blind.
The type of disease I have isn't very common — only 1 in 10,000 people have my form of macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration is fairly common in adults, however, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 6.5% of Americans age 40 and older have some degree of macular degeneration.
That means this disease, something that might seem like just words on a page right now, could potentially affect your life. And that's something you should take seriously.
While there's no cure for AMD (age-related macular degeneration), there are things you can do to help slow the progression. There are treatments that vary depending on the type of AMD you have, vitamins you can take, and clinical trials you can participate in.
One thing that is crucial, though, is early detection.
The sooner you are aware of macular degeneration, the earlier you can treat the disease and fight off vision loss.
Going to the eye doctor is something that's easily forgotten. I definitely didn't think about it when I was younger. When nothing was wrong, it was easy to push such a simple thing aside.
Given, I was 11 years old, so I mostly just thought about One Direction and my sixth grade academic career.
But you're an adult! You're responsible and grown up and in charge of your eye health.
Having a routine eye exam can catch some diseases early, and can more quickly get you on the path to treatment. As little as 30 minutes at the eye doctor can make a big impact on the rest of your life.
I'm writing this in hopes that my column has the chance to leave this page of the newspaper or your computer screen. That these words can encourage you to take control of your vision.
From someone who is currently losing their vision to an eye disease, I implore you — go get your eyes checked. Your actions can determine how you see your future. Literally.
This February, amid the chocolate hearts and flowers, go to the eye doctor and make sure you can continue to see the ones you love. There's nothing more romantic than that.
Alyson Johnston is a senior at Wilsonville High School.
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