Visit our 2 convenient locations!

5900 Heckert Rd.
P.O. Box 324
Bakerstown, PA 15007
724-443-6767 Phone
724-443-6730 Fax

4001 Freeport Rd.
Natrona Heights, PA 15065
724-226-0444 Phone
724-226-0744 Fax


Vision Matters: A Closer Look at February’s AMD Awareness Initiatives

This month is designated as National Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Low Vision Awareness Month. Millions of people in the United States are living with a visual impairment that can significantly impact the quality of life for millions of Americans aged 60 and above. Current statistics reveal that an alarming 1.6 million Americans are grappling with the effects of AMD.

AMD is a disease that blurs the sharp, central vision you need for straight-ahead activities and tasks such as reading and driving. The disease affects the macula; the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail.

Dr. Bissell is a member of the International Academy of Low Vision Specialists. He has been specially trained in low vision to help patients suffering from AMD. Using low-vision glasses and devices can help you manage the condition by enhancing your remaining vision using magnification, filters, and prisms. The biopic telescopic glasses magnify and make distant objects more visible. Think of them like miniature binoculars in your eyeglasses above your line of sight.

For those with low vision, the quality of their vision interferes with their ability to perform everyday activities. Tasks such as reading the mail or a book are challenging. Other obstacles include activities such as shopping, cooking, writing, driving and even the ability to enjoy a movie or television. Besides those difficulties, low vision results in anxiety and frustration when people lose their vision as well as visual independence.

Understanding AMD:

AMD is a progressive eye disease that affects the macula, the central portion of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision. As AMD advances, it can lead to a loss of this crucial vision, impacting daily activities such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces. Two main types of AMD exist: dry AMD, characterized by the accumulation of drusen, and wet AMD, marked by the growth of abnormal blood vessels beneath the macula.

Identifying Risk Factors:

Several risk factors contribute to the development and progression of AMD, emphasizing the importance of early detection and proactive management. Some key risk factors include:

  • Age: The risk of AMD increases with age, particularly for individuals over 60.
  • Genetics: A family history of AMD can elevate the risk for developing the condition.
  • Smoking: Tobacco use is a significant modifiable risk factor, with smokers having a higher likelihood of developing AMD.
  • Race and Gender: Caucasians and females are reported to have a higher prevalence of AMD.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Conditions like hypertension and high cholesterol can contribute to AMD risk.
  • Nutrition: A diet lacking in certain nutrients, such as vitamins C and E, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids, may increase the likelihood of AMD.

Regular comprehensive eye examinations, particularly for those over 60 or with a family history of AMD, can aid in early diagnosis and intervention. Lifestyle modifications, including adopting a healthy diet rich in nutrients, quitting smoking, and managing cardiovascular health, can contribute to reducing the risk of AMD.

Dr. Bissell states, “It is one of the most rewarding experiences to watch someone regain the ability to read a book, watch TV or walk safely down a sidewalk without fear of injury.” Low Vision appointments last longer than regular appointments due to the additional time needed to test various telescopic prescription lenses. The glasses are not covered by insurance with costs starting at $500. It’s a small price to pay for independence. Live life to the fullest. To learn more about low vision services, call our office at 724-443-6767 or 724-226-0444.

About Bissell Eye Care: John D. Bissell, OD owns and operates Bissell Eye Care servicing Northern Pittsburgh and Alle-Kiski Valley regions. With two locations to treat patients, we offer evening and Saturday appointments. Bissell Eye Care provides comprehensive eye examinations for the entire family beginning as early as 6 months, ocular disease detection and treatment, eyeglasses, sunglasses, activewear, contact lenses, and low vision examinations for those with significant vision loss. We accept most types of vision and health insurance plans. For more information, visit or call our Bakerstown Office at 724-443-6767 or Natrona Heights office at 724-226-0444.