Many of our home care clients have something in common – an eye condition called macular degeneration. Macular degeneration, which affects our central vision, is the leading cause of blindness among seniors all over the world.
Once a month, our home caregivers are taxiing clients to Montreal’s fine retina specialists for their shots.
Macular degeneration is the kind of eye condition that sneaks up on you. Words on a page are fuzzy or blurry, or there has been some kind of change. Perhaps the light is glaring a bit and bothering you. So you make an appointment to see the eye doctor. Once there (it usually takes a while to get an appointment) you are immediately sent to a retina specialist. This is because there is swelling or fluid behind the retina, which usually lies flat against the back of the eye. That little bump pushing out the retina is what is causing the difficulty in seeing.
Patients who have severe macular degeneration have difficulty reading, seeing faces, using a computer or watching TV. If there is scarring on the retina, a black dot may appear in the central vision. This makes it impossible to drive a car. Therefore it is of the utmost importance that patients with AMD be treated quickly. For our home care clients who live alone having AMD may cause further isolation. This can be very frightening.
Upon arrival at the retina specialist, drops are administered. Optical technicians test your eyes using a variety of very advanced machines. One is called an OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) scanner. The information gathered from these scans will allow the retina doctor to see inside your eye with precision.
In the doctor’s office, the technician will open your file on the desk. They will then bring up your scans on the large monitor on the doctor’s desk.
Macular degeneration is treated with the injection of medicine into the affected eyeball. Every year, the medicines improve, giving hope to AMD patients. (As recently as the 1990’s there was no treatment for AMD).
Getting the shot itself is not painful. The doctor will inject a small anesthetic into the corner of the eyelid. The actual medicine (tradenames Eylea or Lucentis) is delivered into the eye ball with the thinnest of needles. You do not feel a thing. The recuperation period at home is about 18 hours.
Eylea and Lucentis are miracle drugs for patients with AMD. It does take a series of four to six monthly shots (maybe more) but outcomes are excellent for patients who are caught early.
Retina specialists are working hard to find a cure for this frustrating condition. Dr. Lyndon da Cruz of the Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, England, is currently testing a tiny implant of stem cells into the diseased retinas of AMD patients. So far this procedure has been successful in two patients. The hope is that within five years an off-the-shelf treatment will be available to the millions of AMD patients around the world. Dr. da Cruz anticipates the operation could be as common as cataract surgery.