These healthcare professionals can help you navigate your surroundings safely if you have vision loss or impairment.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of vision impairment in adults, affecting close to 200 million people around the world as of 2020.

There are two types of AMD: wet and dry. Wet AMD is less common than dry AMD, but it tends to be more severe. It generally causes greater visual impairment as well as vision deterioration at a faster rate than dry AMD. Approximately 10% of people with AMD have the wet variety.

Wet AMD can cause blurred vision, dark spots, or straight lines to appear wavy, especially in the center of your visual field. Peripheral vision is usually not affected.

If you have wet AMD, it’s possible to learn techniques to help you better utilize the high functioning parts of your vision in order to compensate for impaired vision.

A certified orientation and mobility specialist is someone trained to help people with wet AMD and other conditions regain functional skills and independence.

In this article, we’ll give a broad overview of how orientation and mobility specialists can be helpful for people with wet AMD.

An orientation and mobility specialist is a professional with an understanding of the challenges associated with vision impairment and adaptive techniques that may help.

As the name suggests, the two primary areas of focus are orientation and mobility. Orientation has to do with assessing your surroundings and your physical presence in a given space. Mobility is your ability to navigate and interact with your surroundings.

An orientation and mobility specialist will ask you about your goals and your challenges. They’ll observe you as you perform tasks and assess your level of visual impairment.

Based on your baseline assessment, they’ll help create a training program to help you achieve your orientation and mobility goals.

If you have wet AMD, you likely have some amount of vision impairment. Vision loss due to wet AMD is typically in the center of your visual field, while your peripheral vision is often preserved.

Because the natural tendency is to look directly at the object of your focus, this type of impairment can make it very difficult to perform tasks such as reading, preparing food, or even looking another person in the eye while conversing.

An orientation and mobility specialist can help you learn to maximize your use of your peripheral vision through techniques such as eccentric viewing. This is a technique in which you learn to look around your blind spot to see an object using your peripheral vision.

They can also help you optimize your home, work area, or other spaces within your control to improve lighting and minimize obstacles. They’ll help you to rely more on aural (sound) and haptic (touch) cues and can even teach you to use assistance devices ranging from text-to-speech applications to walking canes.

While an orientation and mobility specialist’s primary concern will be you and your goals, it’s perfectly natural for your loved ones to be included in one way or another.

Your goals might include traveling to and navigating around a loved one’s home. You might also have loved ones who share your home with you. It could benefit both your emotional and physical health if they have a clear understanding of when and how you would prefer to be assisted and when you prefer to work independently.

At your discretion, your orientation and mobility specialist can teach you some training exercises that a loved one may be able to participate in.

Your mobility plan will be unique to your goals and your current level of ability.

Say, for example, that your wet AMD is causing difficulty in reading the newspaper in the morning, an activity you’ve previously enjoyed. Your goal is to be able to read the news again.

Your specialist will help you to find a way to measure your progress toward the goal, such as counting the number of words you can read in a minute.

Then they’ll help find ways to achieve the goal, such as reconfiguring lighting, using aids such as a magnifying lens, and practicing techniques like using your peripheral vision.

Using the methods you agree upon with your specialist, you’ll practice with guidance, and your progress will be measured until you reach your goal. Along the way, you might make adjustments to your plan to achieve the desired result.

You might start by having a conversation with your eye doctor about the types of challenges you’re experiencing and what types of solutions you’re interested in. They may be able to recommend a specialist who can meet your needs.

You might wish to find an orientation and mobility specialist who has completed certification and training. Online directories from reputable sources can help you find certified specialists in your area.

If you’re in a visual impairment support group, you might consider asking other participants about their experiences working with orientation and mobility specialists.

While wet AMD can cause significant visual impairment, it doesn’t have to prevent you from continuing to do many of the activities you enjoy and living as independently as possible.

An orientation and mobility specialist will work with you to help find the techniques that work best for achieving the goals most important to you. Your eye doctor can help you find a specialist.