February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among Americans age 65 and older. As few as ten years ago, people with AMD had few options when it came to restoring sight lost to AMD. But today, thanks to advances in treatment, people with AMD are able to save their sight. For one woman, AMD treatments saved her from total blindness.
Dr. Khurana examines Ms. Nick
Years after Joan Nick, an 86-year-old retiree from Carmel, Calif. lost vision in her right eye in her 60s due to glaucoma, she was diagnosed with another common eye condition in her left eye: AMD. She had the dry form of the disease, which is caused by aging and thinning of the tissues of the macula (the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye) and a buildup of pieces of fatty protein called drusen forming under the macula. At the time of diagnosis, Nick's ophthalmologist advised her not to worry since the disease typically progresses slowly.
But during a routine eye exam, Nick's ophthalmologist asked her to read an eye chart and to her surprise, she couldn't read it at all. Immediately the ophthalmologist recognized that Nick's condition had progressed from dry AMD to wet AMD, in which abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina and leak fluid or blood, which blurs or distorts central vision. The ophthalmologist told Nick that she needed to see a retina specialist immediately. Fortunately, retina specialist Rahul Khurana, M.D. was just a few blocks up the street and, although his office was about to close, he and his staff stayed late to see Nick.
After a thorough examination, Dr. Khurana confirmed that the condition had progressed to wet AMD and recommended that Nick start a treatment of regular eye injections – an option that wasn't available until 2006. At first, Nick received treatment once a month and was soon able to see again. Now she goes for treatment every other month and continues to read and cook and do the things she enjoys without the need to make too many vision-related adjustments.
Nick, who believes that a positive attitude helps her get through all sorts of challenges, shares her positive experience with other people who are considering treatment for their AMD. "The question they always ask me is, 'Will it hurt?' and I tell them, 'No, it will not.' It certainly isn't as much trouble as it is to be blind – and I know that from my own experience!"