Looking into our eyes: if you're approaching 50, you should know about macular degeneration.THE EYES are the windows to our soul--and, sometimes, to the state of our general health. Vision abnormalities can be harbingers of other problems, including diabetes, brain tumors, rheumatoid arthritis rheumatoid arthritis
Chronic, progressive autoimmune disease causing connective-tissue inflammation, mostly in synovial joints. It can occur at any age, is more common in women, and has an unpredictable course. and lupus. But trouble seeing can also indicate serious problems with, well, the eyes.
According to the American Foundation for the Blind American Foundation for the Blind,
n.pr an advocacy group for individuals with visual disabilities. , 6.5 million Americans over the age of 65 experience severe vision loss. Health officials predict that diseases of the eye, such as age-related macular degeneration Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD)
Degeneration of the macula (the central part of the retina where the rods and cones are most dense) that leads to loss of central vision in people over 60. (AMD (Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., Sunnyvale, CA, www.amd.com) A major manufacturer of semiconductor devices including x86-compatible CPUs, embedded processors, flash memories, programmable logic devices and networking chips. ), glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy diabetic retinopathy
Retinal changes occurring in long-term diabetes and characterized by punctate hemorrhages, microaneurysms, and sharply defined waxy exudates. will double as the nation's 78 million baby boomers reach retirement age and beyond.
One of the leading causes of impairment of vision in people over 50 is age-related macular degeneration, which is caused by the hardening of the arteries hardening of the arteries: see arteriosclerosis. that nourish the retina. In 2004, the Archives of Ophthalmology This article is about the journal published by the American Medical Association. For other journals and uses, see Ophthalmology (disambiguation).
The Archives of Ophthalmology estimated that 1.75 million U.S. residents show significant symptoms associated with AMD, with that number expected to grow to almost three million by 2020. Although AMD doesn't often cause total blindness (peripheral vision peripheral vision
Vision produced by light rays falling on areas of the retina beyond the macula. Also called indirect vision.
Peripheral vision is usually not affected), it can cause severe vision loss.
Sarasota resident Furman Arthur knows all about this devastating dev·as·tate
tr.v. dev·as·tat·ed, dev·as·tat·ing, dev·as·tates
1. To lay waste; destroy.
2. To overwhelm; confound; stun: was devastated by the rude remark. condition. Three years ago, he noticed that the vision in his right eye was more blurry than usual. In his early 80s, he chalked it up to old age. When it started seriously interfering with his reading and writing, Arthur, a former public relations public relations, activities and policies used to create public interest in a person, idea, product, institution, or business establishment. By its nature, public relations is devoted to serving particular interests by presenting them to the public in the most director at New College and a journalist who still practices his craft, knew it was time to see his eye doctor. That doctor sent him to a retina specialist.
By the time Arthur saw the specialist, he had lost most of his central vision in his right eye. He still had peripheral vision, but anything in the center of his vision was blurred and mostly unrecognizable. The specialist told him what he feared: The macula in his right eye was deteriorating.
The macula is located in the center of the retina, says Dr. Harry Grabow, founder, medical director and chief surgeon of the Sarasota Cataract & Laser Institute, "and is the part of the eye used for focusing on detailed vision, especially reading and driving. One of the first symptoms of macular degeneration macular degeneration, eye disorder causing loss of central vision. The affected area, the macula, lies at the back of the retina and is the part that produces the sharpest vision. is difficulty reading very small print, especially newspaper print." Patients complain, he says, of seeing a blank hole in the center of their vision.
"Macular degeneration happens when the arteries that nourish the retina begin to harden," says Grabow. "The tissue of the retina becomes deprived of the oxygen and nutrients that keep it healthy. As a result, the central vision deteriorates."
There are two types of macular degeneration. The wet type is the most aggressive form, and occurs when new blood vessels Blood vessels
Tubular channels for blood transport, of which there are three principal types: arteries, capillaries, and veins. Only the larger arteries and veins in the body bear distinct names. grow under the macula in an attempt to carry much-needed oxygen to the area. "These vessels break easily, causing bleeding and damage to the surrounding tissue," says Grabow. Statistics show that about 10 percent of patients who suffer from macular degeneration have the wet type. Arthur happens to be one of these people.
The dry type of AMD is more common and generally results in less severe loss of vision. It can progress to wet, so if you're diagnosed with dry AMD, you'll be advised to have your eyes examined at least twice a year.
What causes this unpleasant condition and how can we prevent it? While scientists still haven't come up with one determining cause, the condition is aggravated by a variety of factors, including age, dietary habits and overexposure overexposure
too long an exposure time or too high a milliamperage causing too black a picture, loss of detail and some anomalies of translucency. to sunlight. Smokers are found to have higher incidences of it. Recent research by Duke University and other research facilities shows that genetics play a role. If you have a family member with AMD, it's a good idea to have your eyes checked at least once a year after 50. Obesity, lighter eye color, and high blood pressure are also seen as factors that may cause AMD.
As for symptoms, says Grabow, the disease takes its time, and the process is usually slow and relatively painless. Most commonly, patients complain of experiencing fuzzy or distorted vision. They also report difficulty in reading. One way to tell if you're experiencing AMD is to take an Amsler grid test. This is a chart of black lines arranged in a graph pattern that's used to monitor vision loss.
There is still no outright treatment that cures either type of AMD. That said, there is a new FDA-approved drug being used to stop abnormal blood vessel growth for patients suffering from the wet type of macular degeneration, says Dr. Keye L. Wong of the Sarasota Retina Institute.
"Up until only a few years ago, treatment of AMD was not very satisfactory," Wong says. "Then, last summer, a new drug called Lucentis was approved by the FDA FDA
Food and Drug Administration
n.pr See Food and Drug Administration.
n.pr the abbreviation for the Food and Drug Administration. . This drug has completely changed our perception of how we treat AMD. One out of three patients we're treating with Lucentis can see significantly better. Some are actually driving again!"
Wong explains that the drug, which is injected directly into the eye, significantly reduces vascular growth. "The difference for some of our patients has been the difference between being able to maintain independence and having to go into assisted living," he says.
There's one downside to Lucentis: the cost. Wong explains that the drug costs $2,000 a pop--far out of the reach of most people, since it's often administered on a monthly basis. Another drug, Avastin, is currently being tested for use but is not yet FDA-approved. (The Retina Institute has been chosen by the FDA as a testing facility for Avastin.) Wong says that thus far results are encouraging. If it's approved, the cost will be around $50 a treatment.
Nutrition also plays a part in AMD. Certain nutrients such as zinc, lutein lutein /lu·te·in/ (-in)
1. a lipochrome from the corpus luteum, fat cells, and egg yolk.
2. any lipochrome.
1. , zeaxanthin and vitamins A, C and E may lower the risk for AMD and slow down the progression of dry macular degeneration. Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids This is a list of omega-3 fatty acids.
Common name Lipid name Chemical name
α-Linolenic acid (ALA) 18:3 (n-3) octadeca-9,12,15-trienoic acid
Stearidonic acid 18:4 (n-3) octadeca-6,9,12,15-tetraenoic acid may also protect against developing AMD.
Arthur, for one, is grateful for all of the new research being conducted to fight AMD. By the time his left eye started showing signs of AMD last year, his retina specialist, Dr. John H. Niffenegger of the Sarasota Retina Institute, started him on Lucentis, which has greatly helped slow the progression of the degeneration. Arthur has also immersed himself in finding resources to help him live with low vision. He uses ZoomText, a magnification and reading software program, so that he can work on his computer, and Talking Books to keep up with his reading. Best of all, although he has difficulties seeing the ball, he still plays golf because "the swing is still there."
If you're of baby-boomer age, here's a quick look at three other common eye conditions to be aware of:
Cataracts: Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, and we start to have difficulty with night driving, reading small print, and problems with light glare. Cataracts affect nearly 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older. The good news? The cataract can be removed and replaced with an artificial lens.
Dry eye syndrome dry eye syndrome Conjunctivitis arida, keratitis sicca, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, xerophthalmia Medtalk Dryness of eyes, often due to ↓ tear secretion Clinical Dry, greasy, thickened and focally denuded cornea, which may progress to keratomalacia, corneal : As we get older, our bodies produce less oil, which affects the tear film in our eyes. The result is dry areas on the cornea cornea: see eye. , causing irritation, redness and blurred vision. Grabow says that treatment ranges from using artificial tears to having the tear duct plugged or permanently closed.
Floaters floaters /float·ers/ (flo´ters) “spots before the eyes”; deposits in the vitreous of the eye, usually moving about and probably representing fine aggregates of vitreous protein occurring as a benign degenerative change. and flashers: With age, vitreous vitreous /vit·re·ous/ (vit´re-us)
1. glasslike or hyaline.
2. vitreous body.
primary persistent hyperplastic vitreous gel can pull free from the retina. When this happens, we'll experience floaters, or tiny bits of vitreous gel that cast shadows on the retina. Flashes occur when the vitreous tugs on the sensitive retina tissue. Although floaters and flashes are usually innocuous, in some cases they can actually harm the retina. For this reason, Grabow urges anyone experiencing either to see his or her eye doctor.
For more on preventing the onset of macular degeneration, see our Web-only story at www.sarasotamagazine.com.
RELATED ARTICLE: BODY talk
BODY BY WON
Tips from a local legend in fitness.
If you frequent the downtown YMCA YMCA
in full Young Men's Christian Association
Nonsectarian, nonpolitical Christian lay movement that aims to develop high standards of Christian character among its members. , you'll see T-shirts proclaiming "Body by Won." The people wearing them are all ages and sizes bound by one common connection: Won Huh.
Who is Won Huh? He's a former Mr. Korea with a pumped body that still looks like it's made of steel. He's father of Jason Huh, a young professional bodybuilder, and brother to Ki Woon Huh, a master potter. But ask Won and he'll tell you this: He's a fitness instructor with 30 years experience and one simple goal: to help others stay healthy and fit.
It's not exaggerating to say Won is a legend in Sarasota's fitness circles. People will wait as long as it takes to sign on with him, and they often work with him for years. Won says there's really only one prerequisite: desire. "Everything else will follow," he says.
He recommends working with a trainer to devise a program that's followed at least three times weekly. "If your trainer is good," says Won, "he or she will constantly re-evaluate it to reflect your ability level." He also recommends making an appointment with a dietitian dietitian /di·e·ti·tian/ (di?e-tish´in) one skilled in the use of diet in health and disease.
di·e·ti·tian or di·e·ti·cian
A person specializing in dietetics. to plan a custom regime. Won prefers a high-protein, low-carb diet.
The third aspect to a healthy life: reducing stress. Won does that by finding time to kayak, bike and read. Yoga is wonderful, he says, but you can find peace of mind simply by taking a walk or going into your yard and "touching the dirt. Connecting with nature brings ease to our souls." For an appointment or information, call (941) 724-5192.