AMD and Low Vision Awareness Month

AMD… What YOU should know about Age Related Macular Degeneration

Story Credit: National Eye Institute

Perhaps you have just learned that you or a loved one has age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD. If you are like many people, you probably do not know a lot about the condition or understand what is going on inside your eyes.

This PAGE will give you a general overview of AMD. You will learn about the following:

    • Risk factors and symptoms of AMD
    • Treatment options
    • Low vision services that help people make the most of their remaining eyesight
    • Support groups and others who can help

The aim is to answer your questions and to help relieve some of the anxiety you may be feeling.

What is AMD?

AMD is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older. It causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead.

In some people, AMD advances so slowly that vision loss does not occur for a long time. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in one or both eyes. As AMD progresses, a blurred area near the center of vision is a common symptom. Over time, the blurred area may grow larger or you may develop blank spots in your central vision. Objects also may not appear to be as bright as they used to be.

AMD by itself does not lead to complete blindness, with no ability to see. However, the loss of central vision in AMD can interfere with simple everyday activities, such as the ability to see faces, drive, read, write, or do close work, such as cooking or fixing things around the house.

The Macula

The macula is made up of millions of light-sensing cells that provide sharp, central vision. It is the most sensitive part of the retina, which is located at the back of the eye. The retina turns light into electrical signals and then sends these electrical signals through the optic nerve to the brain, where they are translated into the images we see. When the macula is damaged, the center of your field of view may appear blurry, distorted, or dark.

Who is at risk?

Age is a major risk factor for AMD. The disease is most likely to occur after age 60, but it can occur earlier. Other risk factors for AMD include:

  • Smoking. Research shows that smoking doubles the risk of AMD.
  • Race. AMD is more common among Caucasians than among African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.
  • Family history and Genetics. People with a family history of AMD are at higher risk. At last count, researchers had identified nearly 20 genes that can affect the risk of developing AMD. Many more genetic risk factors are suspected. You may see offers for genetic testing for AMD. Because AMD is influenced by so many genes plus environmental factors such as smoking and nutrition, there are currently no genetic tests that can diagnose AMD, or predict with certainty who will develop it. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (link is external) currently recommends against routine genetic testing for AMD, and insurance generally does not cover such testing.

Does lifestyle make a difference?

Researchers have found links between AMD and some lifestyle choices, such as smoking. You might be able to reduce your risk of AMD or slow its progression by making these healthy choices:

  • Avoid smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish

How is AMD detected?

The early and intermediate stages of AMD usually start without symptoms. Only a comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect AMD. The eye exam may include the following:

  • Visual acuity test. This eye chart measures how well you see at distances.
  • Dilated eye exam. Your eye care professional places drops in your eyes to widen or dilate the pupils. This provides a better view of the back of your eye. Using a special magnifying lens, he or she then looks at your retina and optic nerve for signs of AMD and other eye problems.
  • Amsler grid. Your eye care professional also may ask you to look at an Amsler grid. Changes in your central vision may cause the lines in the grid to disappear or appear wavy, a sign of AMD.
  • Fluorescein angiogram. In this test, which is performed by an ophthalmologist, a fluorescent dye is injected into your arm. Pictures are taken as the dye passes through the blood vessels in your eye. This makes it possible to see leaking blood vessels, which occur in a severe, rapidly progressive type of AMD (see below). In rare cases, complications to the injection can arise, from nausea to more severe allergic reactions.
  • Optical coherence tomography. You have probably heard of ultrasound, which uses sound waves to capture images of living tissues. OCT is similar except that it uses light waves, and can achieve very high-resolution images of any tissues that can be penetrated by light—such as the eyes. After your eyes are dilated, you’ll be asked to place your head on a chin rest and hold still for several seconds while the images are obtained. The light beam is painless.

During the exam, your eye care professional will look for drusen, which are yellow deposits beneath the retina. Most people develop some very small drusen as a normal part of aging. The presence of medium-to-large drusen may indicate that you have AMD.

Another sign of AMD is the appearance of pigmentary changes under the retina. In addition to the pigmented cells in the iris (the colored part of the eye), there are pigmented cells beneath the retina. As these cells break down and release their pigment, your eye care professional may see dark clumps of released pigment and later, areas that are less pigmented. These changes will not affect your eye color.

Questions to ask your eye care Professional

Below are a few questions you may want to ask your eye care professional to help you understand your diagnosis and treatment. If you do not understand your eye care professional’s responses, ask questions until you do understand.

  • What is my diagnosis and how do you spell the name of the condition?
  • Can my AMD be treated?
  • How will this condition affect my vision now and in the future?
  • What symptoms should I watch for and how should I notify you if they occur?
  • Should I make lifestyle changes?

What are the stages of AMD?

There are three stages of AMD defined in part by the size and number of drusen under the retina. It is possible to have AMD in one eye only, or to have one eye with a later stage of AMD than the other.

  • Early AMD. Early AMD is diagnosed by the presence of medium-sized drusen, which are about the width of an average human hair. People with early AMD typically do not have vision loss.
  • Intermediate AMD. People with intermediate AMD typically have large drusen, pigment changes in the retina, or both. Again, these changes can only be detected during an eye exam. Intermediate AMD may cause some vision loss, but most people will not experience any symptoms.
  • Late AMD. In addition to drusen, people with late AMD have vision loss from damage to the macula. There are two types of late AMD:
    • In geographic atrophy (also called dry AMD), there is a gradual breakdown of the light-sensitive cells in the macula that convey visual information to the brain, and of the supporting tissue beneath the macula. These changes cause vision loss.
    • In neovascular AMD (also called wet AMD), abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina. (“Neovascular” literally means “new vessels.”) These vessels can leak fluid and blood, which may lead to swelling and damage of the macula. The damage may be rapid and severe, unlike the more gradual course of geographic atrophy. It is possible to have both geographic atrophy and neovascular AMD in the same eye, and either condition can appear first.

AMD has few symptoms in the early stages, so it is important to have your eyes examined regularly. If you are at risk for AMD because of age, family history, lifestyle, or some combination of these factors, you should not wait to experience changes in vision before getting checked for AMD.

Not everyone with early AMD will develop late AMD. For people who have early AMD in one eye and no signs of AMD in the other eye, about five percent will develop advanced AMD after 10 years. For people who have early AMD in both eyes, about 14 percent will develop late AMD in at least one eye after 10 years. With prompt detection of AMD, there are steps you can take to further reduce your risk of vision loss from late AMD.

If you have late AMD in one eye only, you may not notice any changes in your overall vision. With the other eye seeing clearly, you may still be able to drive, read, and see fine details. However, having late AMD in one eye means you are at increased risk for late AMD in your other eye. If you notice distortion or blurred vision, even if it doesn’t have much effect on your daily life, consult an eye care professional.

How is AMD treated?

Early AMD

Currently, no treatment exists for early AMD, which in many people shows no symptoms or loss of vision. Your eye care professional may recommend that you get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. The exam will help determine if your condition is advancing.

As for prevention, AMD occurs less often in people who exercise, avoid smoking, and eat nutritious foods including green leafy vegetables and fish. If you already have AMD, adopting some of these habits may help you keep your vision longer.

Intermediate and late AMD

Researchers at the National Eye Institute tested whether taking nutritional supplements could protect against AMD in the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2). They found that daily intake of certain high-dose vitamins and minerals can slow progression of the disease in people who have intermediate AMD, and those who have late AMD in one eye.

The first AREDS trial showed that a combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper can reduce the risk of late AMD by 25 percent. The AREDS2 trial tested whether this formulation could be improved by adding lutein, zeaxanthin or omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are nutrients enriched in fish oils. Lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene all belong to the same family of vitamins, and are abundant in green leafy vegetables.

The AREDS2 trial found that adding lutein and zeaxanthin or omega-three fatty acids to the original AREDS formulation (with beta-carotene) had no overall effect on the risk of late AMD. However, the trial also found that replacing beta-carotene with a 5-to-1 mixture of lutein and zeaxanthin may help further reduce the risk of late AMD. Moreover, while beta-carotene has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer in current and former smokers, lutein and zeaxanthin appear to be safe regardless of smoking status.

Here are the ingredients based on AREDS and AREDS2 research:

  • 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C
  • 400 international units of vitamin E
  • 80 mg zinc as zinc oxide
  • 2 mg copper as cupric oxide
  • 10 mg lutein and 2 mg zeaxanthin

If you have intermediate or late AMD, you might benefit from taking supplements containing these ingredients. But first, be sure to review and compare the labels. Many supplements have different ingredients, or different doses, from those tested in the AREDS trials. Also, consult your doctor or eye care professional about which supplement, if any, is right for you. For example, if you smoke regularly, or used to, your doctor may recommend that you avoid supplements containing beta-carotene.

Even if you take a daily multivitamin, you should consider taking an AREDS supplement if you are at risk for late AMD. The formulations tested in the AREDS trials contain much higher doses of vitamins and minerals than what is found in multivitamins. Tell your doctor or eye care professional about any multivitamins you are taking when you are discussing possible AREDS formulations.

You may see claims that your specific genetic makeup (genotype) can influence how you will respond to AREDS supplements. Some recent studies have claimed that, depending on genotype, some patients will benefit from AREDS supplements and others could be harmed. These claims are based on a portion of data from the AREDS research. NEI investigators have done comprehensive analyses of the complete AREDS data. Their findings to date indicate that AREDS supplements are beneficial for patients of all tested genotypes. Based on the overall data, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (link is external) does not support the use of genetic testing to guide treatment for AMD.

Finally, remember that the AREDS formulation is not a cure. It does not help people with early AMD, and will not restore vision already lost from AMD. But it may delay the onset of late AMD. It also may help slow vision loss in people who already have late AMD.

Advanced neovascular AMD

Neovascular AMD typically results in severe vision loss. However, eye care professionals can try different therapies to stop further vision loss. You should remember that the therapies described below are not a cure. The condition may progress even with treatment.

  • Injections. One option to slow the progression of neovascular AMD is to inject drugs into the eye. With neovascular AMD, abnormally high levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) are secreted in your eyes. VEGF is a protein that promotes the growth of new abnormal blood vessels. Anti-VEGF injection therapy blocks this growth. If you get this treatment, you may need multiple monthly injections. Before each injection, your eye will be numbed and cleaned with antiseptics. To further reduce the risk of infection, you may be prescribed antibiotic drops. A few different anti-VEGF drugs are available. They vary in cost and in how often they need to be injected, so you may wish to discuss these issues with your eye care professional.
  • Photodynamic therapy. This technique involves laser treatment of select areas of the retina. First, a drug called verteporfin will be injected into a vein in your arm. The drug travels through the blood vessels in your body, and is absorbed by new, growing blood vessels. Your eye care professional then shines a laser beam into your eye to activate the drug in the new abnormal blood vessels, while sparing normal ones. Once activated, the drug closes off the new blood vessels, slows their growth, and slows the rate of vision loss. This procedure is less common than anti-VEGF injections, and is often used in combination with them for specific types of neovascular AMD.
  • Laser surgery. Eye care professionals treat certain cases of neovascular AMD with laser surgery, though this is less common than other treatments. It involves aiming an intense “hot” laser at the abnormal blood vessels in your eyes to destroy them. This laser is not the same one used in photodynamic therapy which may be referred to as a “cold” laser. This treatment is more likely to be used when blood vessel growth is limited to a compact area in your eye, away from the center of the macula, that can be easily targeted with the laser. Even so, laser treatment also may destroy some surrounding healthy tissue. This often results in a small blind spot where the laser has scarred the retina. In some cases, vision immediately after the surgery may be worse than it was before. But the surgery may also help prevent more severe vision loss from occurring years later.

Questions to ask your eye care professional about treatment

  • What is the treatment for advanced neovascular AMD?
  • When will treatment start and how long will it last?
  • What are the benefits of this treatment and how successful is it?
  • What are the risks and side effects associated with this treatment and how has this information been gathered?
  • Should I avoid certain foods, drugs, or activities while I am undergoing treatment?
  • Are other treatments available?
  • When should I follow up after treatment?

Loss of Vision

Coping with AMD and vision loss can be a traumatic experience. This is especially true if you have just begun to lose your vision or have low vision. Having low vision means that even with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery, you find everyday tasks difficult to do. Reading the mail, shopping, cooking, and writing can all seem challenging.

However, help is available. You may not be able to restore your vision, but low vision services can help you make the most of what is remaining. You can continue enjoying friends, family, hobbies, and other interests just as you always have. The key is to not delay use of these services.

What is vision rehabilitation?

To cope with vision loss, you must first have an excellent support team. This team should include you, your primary eye care professional, and an optometrist or ophthalmologist specializing in low vision. Occupational therapists, orientation and mobility specialists, certified low vision therapists, counselors, and social workers are also available to help. Together, the low vision team can help you make the most of your remaining vision and maintain your independence.

Second, talk with your eye care professional about your vision problems. Ask about vision rehabilitation, even if your eye care professional says that “nothing more can be done for your vision.” Vision rehabilitation programs offer a wide range of services, including training for magnifying and adaptive devices, ways to complete daily living skills safely and independently, guidance on modifying your home, and information on where to locate resources and support to help you cope with your vision loss.

Medicare may cover part or all of a patient’s occupational therapy, but the therapy must be ordered by a doctor and provided by a Medicare—approved healthcare provider. To see if you are eligible for Medicare—funded occupational therapy, call 1—800—MEDICARE or 1—800—633—4227.

Where to go for services

Low vision services can take place in different locations, including:

  • Ophthalmology or optometry offices that specialize in low vision
  • Hospital clinics
  • State, nonprofit, or for-profit vision rehabilitation organizations
  • Independent-living centers

What are some low vision devices?

Because low vision varies from person to person, specialists have different tools to help patients deal with vision loss. They include:

  • Reading glasses with high-powered lenses
  • Handheld magnifiers
  • Video magnifiers
  • Computers with large-print and speech-output systems
  • Large-print reading materials
  • Talking watches, clocks, and calculators
  • Computer aids and other technologies, such as a closed-circuit television, which uses a camera and television to enlarge printed text

For some patients with end-stage AMD, an Implantable Miniature Telescope (IMT) may be an option. This FDA-approved device can help restore some lost vision by refocusing images onto a healthier part of the retina. After the surgery to implant the IMT, patients participate in an extensive vision rehabilitation program.

Keep in mind that low vision aids without proper diagnosis, evaluation, and training may not work for you. It is important that you work closely with your low vision team to get the best device or combination of aids to help improve your ability to see.

Questions to ask your eye care professional about low vision

  • How can I continue my normal, routine activities?
  • Are there resources to help me?
  • Will any special devices help me with reading, cooking, or fixing things around the house?
  • What training is available to me?
  • Where can I find individual or group support to cope with my vision loss?

Charles Bonnet syndrome (Visual Hallucinations)

People with impaired vision sometimes see things that are not there, called visual hallucinations. They may see simple patterns of colors or shapes, or detailed pictures of people, animals, buildings, or landscapes. Sometimes these images fit logically into a visual scene, but they often do not.

This condition can be alarming, but don’t worry—it is not a sign of mental illness. It is called Charles Bonnet syndrome, and it is similar to what happens to some people who have lost an arm or leg. Even though the limb is gone, these people still feel their toes or fingers or experience itching. Similarly, when the brain loses input from the eyes, it may fill the void by generating visual images on its own.

Charles Bonnet syndrome is a common side effect of vision loss in people with AMD. However, it often goes away a year to 18 months after it begins. In the meantime, there are things you can do to reduce hallucinations. Many people find the hallucinations occur more frequently in evening or dim light. Turning on a light or television may help. It may also help to blink, close your eyes, or focus on a real object for a few moments.

Coping with AMD

AMD and vision loss can profoundly affect your life. This is especially true if you lose your vision rapidly.

Even if you experience gradual vision loss, you may not be able to live your life the way you used to. You may need to cut back on working, volunteering, and recreational activities. Your relationships may change, and you may need more help from family and friends than you are used to. These changes can lead to feelings of loss, lowered self-esteem, isolation, and depression.

In addition to getting medical treatment for AMD, there are things you can do to cope:

  • Learn more about your vision loss.
  • Visit a specialist in low vision and get devices and learning skills to help you with the tasks of everyday living.
  • Try to stay positive. People who remain hopeful say they are better able to cope with AMD and vision loss.
  • Stay engaged with family and friends.
  • Seek a professional counselor or support group. Your doctor or eye care professional may be able to refer you to one.

Information for family members

Shock, disbelief, depression, and anger are common reactions among people who are diagnosed with AMD. These feelings can subside after a few days or weeks, or they may last longer. This can be upsetting to family members and caregivers who are trying to be as caring and supportive as possible.

Following are some ideas family members might consider:

  • Obtain as much information as possible about AMD and how it affects sight. Share the information with the person who has AMD.
  • Find support groups and other resources within the community.
  • Encourage family and friends to visit and support the person with AMD.
  • Allow for grieving. This is a natural process.
  • Lend support by “being there.”

What research is being done?

NEI conducts and supports research in labs and clinical centers across the country to better prevent, detect, and treat AMD.

NEI-funded research over the past decade has revealed new insight into the genetics of AMD. By screening the DNA of thousands of people with and without AMD, scientists have identified differences in genes that affect AMD risk. Armed with this knowledge, researchers are identifying key biochemical pathways involved in the disease and are exploring therapies that could interrupt these pathways. It might also be possible to develop drug therapies for AMD that are targeted specifically to a person’s unique genetic risk factors.

Scientists are also exploring ways to regenerate tissues destroyed by AMD. One approach is to make stem cells from a patient’s own skin or blood. In a lab, these stem cells can be specially treated to form sheets of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE)—the pigmented layer of tissue that supports the light-sensitive cells of the retina. The goal is to generate layers of RPE that can be implanted into the patient’s eye to preserve vision.

The NEI Audacious Goals Initiative (AGI) is taking on one of the biggest challenges in medicine: the regeneration of nerve cells in the retina and brain. In humans, once brain and retinal neurons are gone—due to injury or diseases like AMD—they are typically gone for good. However, lessons from nature suggest that it may possible to overcome this limitation. For example, in some fish and amphibians, if the retina is damaged, it can grow back. Through targeted research, the NEI AGI aims to unlock these secrets and utilize them in humans—to develop new therapies to regenerate neurons and neural connections in the eye and visual system.

Where can I get more information?


About NEI: As part of the federal government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Eye Institute’s mission is to “conduct and support research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to blinding eye diseases, visual disorders, mechanisms of visual function, preservation of sight, and the special health problems and requirements of the blind.” For more information, please visit NEI’s homepage HERE.

 

Tech Authority: The Voice Memos App

by Mark Levengood

A common struggle among visually impaired individuals is the emphasis on pictures as a means of capturing a moment or experience. Certainly we will participate in the picture and position ourselves according to instruction from the individual with the camera or smart phone, but inevitably we will never be able to enjoy those pictures. However, I inadvertently stumbled across a solution to at least some of these situations. While exploring my iPhone I discovered an app called Voice Memos. I never downloaded this app, so I can only assume it came as a standard app already installed on the iPhone at purchase. Essentially, this app is a preinstalled digital recorder on the phone. Many visually impaired people will pursue a digital recorder as a means of quickly recording appointment dates and times when at a doctor’s office or even phone numbers of people they encounter in public, both of these situations occurring away from their normal means of noting this information in a form that is accessible to them. Naturally a paper and pencil will not work, but a digital recorder suffices. The Voice Memos app will successfully accomplish this same task.

My primary use for the Voice Memos app at this time in my life actually concerns my nieces. As previously mentioned, visually impaired people cannot appreciate pictures, and there are certainly many pictures to be taken of all children, but especially when infants and toddlers in an effort to capture and preserve that stage of life. I began using my Voice Memos app in early 2017 before my nieces even turned a year old to record their cute sounds, laughter, and early attempts at words, which has since evolved into recording them say my name and that of my Seeing Eye dog as well as some of our earliest conversations and songs. Every time they do something adorable, which is frequent, I am trying to record it with my Voice Memos app to relive and experience later, either that week or in the years to come. Therefore, the Voice Memos app has offered me and other visually impaired people with a way of replacing cameras and pictures by providing an alternate means of capturing those special moments in life. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but as a visually impaired individual I can now record those thousand words to appreciate and value just as a sighted person treasures a picture.

If you are visually impaired and you have a digital recorder, then by all means use it, but if you do not have a digital recorder and do own an iPhone, then start accessing this Voice Memos app. I cannot comment on other smart phones having a Voice Memos app or something similar as I am an iPhone user, but hopefully something is available as I have recorded not only special interactions with my nieces, but also important presentations and other family events.

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month

Glaucoma… The Leading Cause of Preventable Blindness

Story Credit: Glaucoma Research Foundation

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to spread the word about this sight stealing disease.

 

Currently, more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase.Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it’s permanent. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing.Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. Moreover, among African American and Latino populations, glaucoma is more prevalent. Glaucoma is 6 to 8 times more common in African Americans than Caucasians.Over 3 million Americans, and over 60 million people worldwide, have glaucoma. Experts estimate that half of them don’t know they have it. Combined with our aging population, we can see an epidemic of blindness looming if we don’t raise awareness about the importance of regular eye examinations to preserve vision. The World Health Organization estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma. 

Help Raise Awareness

father-son-talking_290.jpg

Talk to your family about glaucoma.

In the United States, approximately 120,000 are blind from glaucoma, accounting for 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness. Here are three ways you can help raise awareness:

  1. Talk to friends and family about glaucoma. If you have glaucoma, don’t keep it a secret. Let your family members know.
  2. Refer a friend to our web site, www.glaucoma.org.
  3. Request to have a free educational booklet sent to you or a friend.
  4. Get involved in your community through fundraisers, information sessions, group discussions, inviting expert speakers, and more.

Connect with us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for regular updates on glaucoma research, treatments, news and information. Share information about glaucoma with your friends and family.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning. Although the most common forms primarily affect the middle-aged and the elderly, glaucoma can affect people of all ages.

Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve. This nerve acts like an electric cable with over a million wires. It is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain.

There is no cure for glaucoma—yet. However, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease.

Watch a video from the research scientists working to find a cure.

Types of Glaucoma

There are two main types of glaucoma: primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), and angle-closure glaucoma. These are marked by an increase of intraocular pressure (IOP), or pressure inside the eye. When optic nerve damage has occurred despite a normal IOP, this is called normal tension glaucoma.

Secondary glaucoma refers to any case in which another disease causes or contributes to increased eye pressure, resulting in optic nerve damage and vision loss.

Read more about Types of Glaucoma.

Regular Eye Exams are Important

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization. In the most common form, there are virtually no symptoms. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost.

The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination. Then, if you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African-Americans. And among Hispanics in older age groups, the risk of glaucoma is nearly as high as that for African-Americans. Also, siblings of persons diagnosed with glaucoma have a significantly increased risk of having glaucoma.

Read about Glaucoma Eye Exams.

Risk Factors

Are you at risk for glaucoma? Those at higher risk include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent. Other high-risk groups include: people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted. Regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma, and may help to prevent unnecessary vision loss.

Help Us Find a Cure

Glaucoma Research Foundation is a national non-profit organization funding innovative research to preserve vision and find a cure for glaucoma. Gifts of every size make a difference. Donate today.


About Glaucoma Research Foundation: The Glaucoma Research Foundation is a national non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for glaucoma. Founded in 1978 in San Francisco, the organization funds glaucoma research world-wide. Learn more about Glaucoma Research Foundation.

 

April is National Sports Eye Safety Month

April 2017 is National Sports Eye Safety Month

from Eye Health in Sports and Recreation written by David Turbert, reviewed by Brenda Pagan-Duran MD – American Academy of Ophthalmology

Tens of thousands of sports and recreation-related eye injuries occur each year. The good news is that 90 percent of serious eye injuries are preventable through use of appropriate protective eyewear.

The risk of eye injury can vary depending on the activity. Make sure the level of eye protection you or others in your family use is appropriate for the type of activity. Regular eyeglasses do not offer proper eye protection.

 

High-Risk Sports

For all age groups, sports-related eye injuries occur most frequently in baseball, basketball and racquet sports.

Boxing and full-contact martial arts pose an extremely high risk of serious and even blinding eye injuries. There is no satisfactory eye protection for boxing, although thumbless gloves may reduce the number of boxing eye injuries.

In baseball, ice hockey and men’s lacrosse, a helmet with a polycarbonate (an especially strong, shatterproof, lightweight plastic) face mask or wire shield should be worn at all times. It is important that hockey face masks be approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).

Protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses should be worn for sports such as basketball, racquet sports, soccer and field hockey. Choose eye protectors that have been tested to meet the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards or that pass the CSA racquet sports standard. See the EyeSmart Protective Eyewear page for additional details.

If you already have reduced vision in one eye, consider the risks of injuring the stronger eye before participating in contact or racquet sports, which pose a higher risk of eye injury. Check with your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) to see if appropriate eye protection is available and whether or not participating in contact or racquet sports is advised.

 

Other Risky Leisure Activities

While sports account for a particularly high number of eye injuries, they are by no means the only hobby that poses a risk to your sight. According to physicians surveyed for the 2008 Eye Injury Snapshot conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ocular Trauma, more than 40 percent of patients treated for eye injuries sustained at home were involved in home repairs, yard work, cleaning and cooking. Use common sense and err on the side of caution, whatever the activity.

  • Consider the risk of flying debris or other objects during activities and wear appropriate eye protection.
  • Remember that eyeglasses aren’t sufficient protection.
  • Be careful during activities or games involving projectiles and other sharp objects that could create injury if in contact with the eye. For example, the U.S. Eye Injury Registry indicates that fishing is the number one cause of sports-related eye injuries.
  • If you wear contacts or eyeglasses, pack a back-up form of vision correction during bike trips or other activities where you could lose or shatter a lens.

If an eye injury occurs, see an ophthalmologist or go to the emergency room immediately, even if the eye injury appears minor. Delaying medical attention can result in permanent vision loss or blindness.

 

Learn What to Do For an Eye Injury

If you or your child get an eye injury, follow these important care and treatment guidelines for eye injuries.

 

On-the-Field Visual Test Helps Diagnose Concussions in Athletes

About 3.8 million Americans sustain sports-related concussions each year, so a quick, reliable screening test would be useful on the sidelines, to keep injured athletes from returning to play too soon, and off the field to help physicians more effectively diagnose, treat and rehabilitate patients with concussions. An on-the-field visual test can help.

 

For more information, please talk with your eye professional.

Read the full AAO article here

March is National Save Your Vision Month

National Save Your Vision Month

March is National Save Your Vision Month

Digital technology not only redefines how people interact with the world, but also how they see it, making it all the more important for the public to make smart eye care choices.

credit: American Optometric Association

That’s why the ’21st-century Eye’ is the focus of AOA’s Save Your Vision Month public awareness campaign throughout March, offering consumers a healthy reminder about eye health from the most authoritative source they know—their eye doctors.

Take advantage of Save Your Vision Month resources—such as promotional kits from Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation—to get your message heard.

3 considerations for the 21st-century eye

Below are three messages bound to resonate with an increasingly tech-conscious public that this year’s Save Your Vision Month campaign will reinforce:

  1. Give your eyes a break. An AOA survey found that 83 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 use an electronic device for more than three hours a day, while only 14 percent reported taking a visual break every 20 minutes. The AOA recommends the 20-20-20 rule to ward off digital eye strain: Take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. And when it comes to digital devices, research indicates that blue light exposure could be doing some harm.
  2. Be a savvy shopper. Purchasing eyeglasses online may seem like a consumer convenience, but the AOA warns that the consequences of making an incorrect or uninformed purchase could cost patients more time and money in the long run. An AOA study published in 2011 with the Optical Laboratories Association and The Vision Council found nearly half of all glasses ordered online had either prescription errors or failed to meet minimum safety standards.
  3. Skip shortcuts. When it comes to the overall health and wellbeing of eyes, there is no substitute for a yearly, comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor. Mobile apps or online tests do not provide the appropriate accuracy or information when it comes to changes in eye and general health. Regular, comprehensive eye exams are one of the most important, preventive ways to preserve healthy eyes and save vision.

Jack Schaeffer, O.D., Optometry Cares board member, says the observance is a great chance to join a worthwhile national awareness campaign that benefits optometry.

“This is an opportunity to really educate as many people as we can, to start that word of mouth of, ‘hey, let’s take care of our eyes,'” Dr. Schaeffer says in an upcoming article about the campaign in the March edition of AOA Focus.

 

For more information, please talk with your eye professional.

Read the full AOA article

February is AMD and Low Vision Awareness Month

Low Vision Awareness

February is AMD and Low Vision Awareness Month

Perhaps you have just learned that you or a loved one has age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD. If you are like many people, you probably do not know a lot about the condition or understand what is going on inside your eyes.

credit: National Eye Institute

AMD is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older. It causes damage to the macula, a small spot near the center of the retina and the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision, which lets us see objects that are straight ahead.

In some people, AMD advances so slowly that vision loss does not occur for a long time. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in one or both eyes. As AMD progresses, a blurred area near the center of vision is a common symptom. Over time, the blurred area may grow larger or you may develop blank spots in your central vision. Objects also may not appear to be as bright as they used to be.

AMD by itself does not lead to complete blindness, with no ability to see. However, the loss of central vision in AMD can interfere with simple everyday activities, such as the ability to see faces, drive, read, write, or do close work, such as cooking or fixing things around the house.

Who is at risk?

Age is a major risk factor for AMD. The disease is most likely to occur after age 60, but it can occur earlier. Other risk factors for AMD include:

  • Smoking. Research shows that smoking doubles the risk of AMD.
  • Race. AMD is more common among Caucasians than among African-Americans or Hispanics/Latinos.
  • Family history and Genetics. People with a family history of AMD are at higher risk. At last count, researchers had identified nearly 20 genes that can affect the risk of developing AMD. Many more genetic risk factors are suspected.
    You may see offers for genetic testing for AMD. Because AMD is influenced by so many genes plus environmental factors such as smoking and nutrition, there are currently no genetic tests that can diagnose AMD, or predict with certainty who will develop it.
    The American Academy of Ophthalmology (link is external) currently recommends against routine genetic testing for AMD, and insurance generally does not cover such testing.

Does lifestyle make a difference?

Researchers have found links between AMD and some lifestyle choices, such as smoking. You might be able to reduce your risk of AMD or slow its progression by making these healthy choices:

  • Avoid smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish

How is AMD detected?

The early and intermediate stages of AMD usually start without symptoms. Only a comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect AMD. The eye exam may include the following:

  • Visual acuity test. This eye chart measures how well you see at distances.
  • Dilated eye exam. Your eye care professional places drops in your eyes to widen or dilate the pupils. This provides a better view of the back of your eye. Using a special magnifying lens, he or she then looks at your retina and optic nerve for signs of AMD and other eye problems.
  • Amsler grid. Your eye care professional also may ask you to look at an Amsler grid. Changes in your central vision may cause the lines in the grid to disappear or appear wavy, a sign of AMD.
  • Fluorescein angiogram. In this test, which is performed by an ophthalmologist, a fluorescent dye is injected into your arm. Pictures are taken as the dye passes through the blood vessels in your eye. This makes it possible to see leaking blood vessels, which occur in a severe, rapidly progressive type of AMD (see below). In rare cases, complications to the injection can arise, from nausea to more severe allergic reactions.
  • Optical coherence tomography. You have probably heard of ultrasound, which uses sound waves to capture images of living tissues. OCT is similar except that it uses light waves, and can achieve very high-resolution images of any tissues that can be penetrated by light—such as the eyes. After your eyes are dilated, you’ll be asked to place your head on a chin rest and hold still for several seconds while the images are obtained. The light beam is painless.

During the exam, your eye care professional will look for drusen, which are yellow deposits beneath the retina. Most people develop some very small drusen as a normal part of aging. The presence of medium-to-large drusen may indicate that you have AMD.

Another sign of AMD is the appearance of pigmentary changes under the retina. In addition to the pigmented cells in the iris (the colored part of the eye), there are pigmented cells beneath the retina. As these cells break down and release their pigment, your eye care professional may see dark clumps of released pigment and later, areas that are less pigmented. These changes will not affect your eye color.

For more information, please talk with your eye professional.

Read the full NEI article

 

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month

National Glaucoma Awareness

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month.

Everyone is at risk. Including YOU.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning and is the leading cause of preventable blindness. As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing. Once vision is lost, it’s permanent.

credit: Glaucoma Research Foundation
Vision loss gets caused by damage to the optic nerve. This nerve acts like an electric cable with over a million wires. It’s responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain.
 
There is no cure for glaucoma—yet. But, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease.
 
It was once thought that high pressure within the eye, also known as intraocular pressure or IOP. IOP is the main cause of this optic nerve damage. Although IOP is a risk factor, we know that other factors must get involved. Even people with “normal” levels of pressure can experience vision loss from glaucoma.

The most common type of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma.

The other main type of adult glaucoma is angle-closure glaucoma.

 

For more information, please visit Glaucoma Research Foundation.