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As we age, preserving independence and continuing to do the things we love can greatly depend on good eye health. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of central vision loss or blindness in people over fifty, and it is the number two reason, second only to Alzheimer’s disease, for why people end up in nursing homes. Joining Andrew Schorr on this episode of Patient Power to discuss the exciting new developments in the treatment and management of macular degeneration is Dr. Russell Van Gelder, chairman of Ophthalmology at the University of Washington Medical Center, University of Washington School of Medicine.

Dr. Van Gelder begins his discussion with a basic overview of how the eye functions. This allows him to offer a more in-depth description of what is actually happening to an eye with macular degeneration, which comes in both a dry and wet form. Together, Andrew and Dr. Van Gelder define the differences between the two forms. About 90 percent of cases are dry macular degeneration, for which there is no specific treatment. Dr. Van Gelder discusses how to manage the disease and keep it from progressing to the more serious form, wet macular degeneration. Experts still do not understand what causes this degenerative eye disease on the most basic level, but there has been tremendous progress in recent years in the area of treatment. Dr. Van Gelder describes some of the older therapies used in the past and the newer drug and surgical treatments that replace them today, as well as preventative measures to preserve the vision you have for as long as possible. This includes a discussion of the three recently FDA approved treatments– Lucentis, Macugen and Photodynamic Therapy – for the wet form of macular degeneration, as well as vitamin regimens that have been shown to help in the management of the disease.

Patient John McMannus, a vibrant grandfather and former pilot, shares his story of developing macular degeneration and receiving Lucentis, which involves an injection in the eye. Dr. Van Gelder contends it is imperative for patients to monitor their eyes and see an eye care professional if they sense any changes in their vision. Learn how Mr. McMannus uses an Amsler grid to help him do this. Dr. Van Gelder goes on to answer questions from Patient Power listeners, which leads to a discussion on clinical trials and new drug combinations that may improve treatment and outcomes for patients in the future. With all of the recent progress in treatment, macular degeneration patients can have hope of restored vision and an improved quality of life. With people living longer, the incidence of eye problems is increasing, and Dr. Van Gelder stresses the importance of on-going support in eye care research to ensure better treatments can be developed. Overall, an informative and inspiring program with a wealth of information for maintaining eye health as you age.

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Produced in association with UW Medicine


Andrew Schorr:

We’re live on AM570 KVI. Coming up Patient Power, and we are talking about a very important eye care topic for people as they get over 50, macular degeneration, and it is the leading cause of central vision loss or blindness in the United States today for those of us who are over 50. We have with us the Chairman of Ophthalmology at the University of Washington coming up next on Patient Power.

Good morning wherever you are. We are live on KVI radio; Andrew Schorr broadcasting to the world with Patient Power. As I like to say, and it’s really true folks, this is the only program of its kind anywhere hosted by a patient, as you’ve heard I’m a leukemia survivor, for you on very significant medical issues with leading authorities. We are not out to sell anything. There is no bottle of pills we want you to buy. We want to just connect you with the most authoritative medical information there is anywhere. If you miss it live, it is all on our website Starting a week ago it is also on the new Microsoft Health search engine, so it’s a service to the world. Thank you for being with us.

Today’s service is going to be provided by three former New Yorkers. Me, growing up in Manhattan; the new head of Ophthalmology at the University of Washington, Dr. Russell Van Gelder also from New York City originally and we have been chatting about that; and then also a really neat guy, a little senior to Dr. Van Gelder and myself, John McManus who is from New York too. We are going to meet them in a second; I just want to set the stage.

I don’t know what your age is but if you know some folks who are seniors one of the things that they worry about with their sight is something called macular degeneration. They can get blurred vision, or they can start to get spots in their central vision where they just can’t see or lines get squiggly. Usually it is what they call the dry kind of macular degeneration, and that’s pretty common, but for a million and a half people as they age it can become the wet kind.

That can be very serious but the good news is the whole landscape of treatments has been changing tremendously. It is a real medical success story there. There are new approaches for that and we are going to hear about that with Dr. Van Gelder in just a minute.

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