Testing…1…2…3

Back again after vacuuming the living room and filling both the washer and the dishwasher. Starting to wonder which is worse. I have always been a little crazy but tackling some of this research stuff is, well, nuts!

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be” said the Cat “ or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Now that THAT is settled….the article, Clinical Endpoints, etc. talks about how using spectral domain OCT can even predict where GA will spread in your macula. With no way to stop it, I might want to be ignorant of where the condition will hit next, but the authors opine being able to discover new biomarkers may indicate new directions for therapies, something we want to hear.

The article then moved over to the wet side of the street. I only had testing for wet AMD one time. They shot me up with ‘carrot juice’ aka beta carotene, and then used what was probably either fluorescein angiography or indocyanine green angiography to look for leaks.

Back to a more general discussion, did anyone ever put electrodes on your corneas and shine a light in your eyes? Multifocal electroretinography measures the strength of the signal coming off your photoreceptors when exposed to light. And I am just full of bad news today, but there appears to be a diminution of the signal strength even in early AMD.

We have talked at some length about dark adaptation and contrast sensitivity. We even mentioned the contrast test they talk about, Pelli-Robson. Allow me a moment of satisfaction for that one🙆.

On to one I never heard of: microperimetry. This test put stimuli on very specific parts of your macula and you hit the old button if your see them. Your fixation point is monitored so if you “cheat your sweet patootie off” like I do – in other words use eccentric viewing instead of putting my poor, ravished fovea on the target – they will know.

Other than suggesting where on your retina you can actually put your eccentric viewing, the ‘maps’ from microperimetry also give an idea of where the atrophy is going to spread. Not that I want to know perhaps. And even more bad news is the study quoted found even functional macular tissue was compromised.

I think I need to stop reading this cursed study. It is depressing!

Okay, the last section of the article talked about quality of life. Finally, back to my neck of the woods. Remember: social scientist here.

And some last thoughts:

It is just fine to put problems you cannot solve away until you actually have the resources to deal with them. In DBT (and no, I have not forgotten about that) it is called pushing away. I share good news and bad. It is up to you to pick out the things that are helpful and put away the information that is not helpful or depressing. Even the depressing findings add to our knowledge base and lead us towards treatments and maybe even a cure. Let the researchers deal with the depressing stuff.

“I don’t focus on what I’m up against. I focus on my goals and ignore the rest.” – Venus Williams

October 8th, 2017 Continue reading “Testing…1…2…3”

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Know the Terms

Happy Saturday! Miserably 3H today. That is hazy, hot and humid. A Pennsylvania summer day at its finest. I don’t mind this. It is the type of day I would head off for the swimming hole when I was a kid. Good memories. However the husband hates it and the Beastie Baby, elderly and with lung disease (cancer?), is not thrilled.

Nine days in and she is still not looking as if she is at death’s door. Dare I hope? Still just taking it a day at a time.

I went to the Y this morning. I was cleared to TRY some things that would involve my shoulders. Got about halfway through yoga before I got ouchy.

Time to go back to major modifications. Grrrrrrrrrr…. I really am trying to be good. It is not easy.

Once I got home – and discovered I had zero motivation for any real work – I decided to write a page. Topic, topic,….TOPIC! How about visual impairment?!?!?

I always explain I am visually impaired, not blind, not low vision, etc. Some days I say I am legally blind. I have never been totally sure I am legally blind, though. I know I had to be legally blind in order to get the services I got from the state but maybe someone fudged a bit? I don’t actually feel legally blind.

But I digress. What are the proper terms anyway?

VisionAware published a list of terms. They say low vision is the preferred term these days. (Does anyone else have trouble keeping up with the ‘acceptable’ terms recently? I am always woefully not PC.) Low vision is uncorrectable vision loss that interferes with daily activities. Low vision’s definition is functional. If you cannot get enough correction to do what you need to do, it’s low vision. Sort of a subjective definition.

Legally blind Is a term used by government agencies. It is not subjective. If you want to try for disability or get goodies, you need visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with best correction. Another option for qualifying would be no correct letters read from the 20/100 line on the new charts.

Please note I said in the better eye. That means there has to be impairment in BOTH eyes. We have had clients insisting they qualify for help with only one ‘bad’ eye. Not the case.

The other way to qualify with dear Uncle Sam is to have tunnel vision. Tunnel vision is 20 degrees of arc or less in the better eye.

Remember that is with your better eye and with optimum correction. Those of you with only one involved eye again don’t qualify for help.

And as I get to the end of the article, I find my preferred label, visually impaired. Visual impairment is sort of a general term. It covers the gamut. You can be moderately, severely or profoundly impaired and still fall under visual impairment. Visual impairment and its levels are objective rather than functional as defined. The World Health Organization uses these levels in their work.

So, when all is said and done, I guess I can still tell people I am visually impaired. It is still an acceptable term, but you can say your are low vision, too. Don’t get too attached to your terminology, though. These ‘label’ things can change like the weather!

written July 22nd, 2017

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One Foot in Front of the Other

We recently had a reader ask how it is possible to maintain hope, faith and optimism, etc. when “everything” is slipping away. She stated she does not want this disease because she had watched it “destroy” others. Her friends do not want to associate with her because of the “doom” she is facing.

Oh, my…where to start. First of all, I guess I need to say “I’m with you! I don’t want the damn thing either.” But wanting it or not wanting it really does not make a bit of difference. We do not get to make decisions like that in our lives. We only get to accept (or reject, but if you fight reality, I can practically guarantee you will waste a whole lot of energy and in the end, still lose. To paraphrase “I fight reality, reality always wins!”). We also can find ways of coping.

That appears to be a magic word: cope. This is not a fatal disease. If you are still breathing and conscious, you are capable of dealing with things and trying to make them better. Your hope is in every breath you take. Breath.

Remember one of my favorite people whom I never met, Viktor Frankl, said “the last freedom left to any man is determining how he will react to his circumstances.” This disease will not destroy us. It may take things from us, but not destroy us. We destroy ourselves through our reactions to it.

Our reader may not realize it, but she IS coping. She reached out to this website. She has sought professional help and she is involved with the state services for the visually handicapped. She is doing what she can do.

We don’t have to like having AMD and losing sight. We don’t have to be happy about it. We just have to keep moving. I mentioned this before but another one of my favorite, never met people, Winston Churchill, said something like “when you are going through Hell, keep going!” It is in pouting and denying reality – in stopping in the middle of Hell – that we are destroyed.

To address the part about being hopeful, optimistic, etc, a bit more, there are times all of those pretty thoughts are going to desert us. Times there seems – as in appearances and impressions – there is no hope. Those are the times we simply put one foot in front of the other. Determine what is next and do it.

I have been told I am “in love” with DBT. I am, for the simple reason it works. Mindfulness and staying in the moment work.

For example, the Beastie Baby has been diagnosed with lung cancer, but right now she is sleeping peacefully on the floor next to me. Right now, life is good. We will take one day at a time, one hour, one moment if need be. We will not grieve (much) and ruin life when things are good. Lesson: stay in the moment. Deal with the now. By dealing with each moment as it comes, we can handle a scary future. Buying future grief and hardship is a bad investment.

I could address the absolutes – always, never, everything – but I won’t. Not much, at any rate. We just need to remember few things in life are truly that black and white, that cut and dry. Every dark cloud has a silver lining and every silver cloud has some dark inside.

This has been a little jumbled, but that, after all, is my mind. I guess in summary, what I want to say is:

Accept this is happening, Recognize you are not powerless, we all have choices we can make.

Understand if we take care of each moment as it comes, the future will take care of itself. Don’t get ahead of yourself.

We don’t need to be hopeful or optimistic all of the time (even though there is reason for hope). If you cannot muster any faith in your future, just put one foot in front of the other and move. You will be surprised where you end up.

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Timeline Part 1: Advances in Treatment & Care for People with Macular Degeneration

It’s Lin/Linda.  I created this page to go with Sue’s page Not Your Parents’ AMD.  Like some of you, I had a loved one with AMD.  It was my father who was diagnosed with AMD in 2005 at the age of 82.  At the time, I was living 700 miles away and I did not know much about the disease or at what stage he was diagnosed.  He progressed to geographic atrophy (GA), that much I knew.  He was the sole caregiver for my mother who had Alzheimer’s Disease.  He continued to drive (not safely), take care of her and the house.  He was never referred to vision rehabilitation or offered any help other than being told to use handheld magnifiers.

I wondered how things have changed since then which led me to do this timeline review.  Not only have there been advances in the medical end of the field but also in the technology that is allowing people to remain independent for as long as possible.  That is if a person learns how to use the various devices and apps available.

I’ve based the categories of time on an article Age-Related Macular Degeneration
1969 –2004: A 35-Year Personal Perspective by Stuart L. Fine, MD published in 2005.  He says “In 1969, patients with AMD constituted a small part of a typical ophthalmic practice. From 1969 to 2004, the prevalence of AMD has increased, and the methods of evaluation and treatment have changed dramatically.”

I know I have missed many events that have been critical to the history of the treatment & care of AMD.  There is SO much information out there and I’ve tried to use the most significant dates I could find.  Have a suggestion of what to include? Did I get a date wrong? Let me know in a comment or send me an email at light2sight5153@gmail.com.

1st Era: 1969–1979
  • Emergence of fluorescein fundus photography: test used in diagnosis of retinal diseases
  • Development of ‘hot’ (high power) laser photocoagulation, first treatment for wet AMD
  • Relationship of drusen to age-related macular degeneration
  • Other developments:
    • 1976-1977 first personal computers affordable for home use
    • more low vision aids:
      • 1960s large print books became available
      • 1976 large print calculators became available
      • 1969-1970 CCTV (closed caption TV) for reading aid
2nd Era: 1980–1994
  • Clinical trials to evaluate new treatments, especially laser photocoagulation (1979-1994)
  • Development of risk factor data from large and small epidemiologic studies (epidemology is looking for patterns & causes)
  • mid-1980s term ‘senile macular degeneration’ becomes ‘age-related macular degeneration’
  • Other developments:
    • 1982 Vitreous Society was founded; 1983 first meeting attended by 44 retinal specialists
    • 1991 OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) test used in diagnosis of retinal diseases
    • mid 1980s name changed from ‘senile macular degeneration’ to ‘age-related macular degeneration’
    • 1992 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
    • 1983 first cell phones
    • 1991 World Wide Web for ‘surfing’ the Internet with easy-to-use browsers
    • low vision aids:
      • MaxiAids catalog of aids for orders from people with low vision & other impairments
    • technology/low vision aids:
      • 1982 DragonSystems founded Dragon NaturallySpeaking, speech to text
      • 1988 ZoomText was released which is software to magnify text on a computer screen
3rd Era: 1995–2003
  • Evaluation of radiation therapy for neovascular AMD, not proven to be effective
  • Assessment of pharmacologic interventions for neovascular AMD; Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) “cold” (low power laser) with Visudyne (first drug treatment;  2001)
  • Prevention trials: results AREDS released 2001
  • Other developments:
    • 1995 Amazon sells books online (1998 expands beyond just books; e-books 2000)
    • 1996 Google released
    • 1998 first e-book reader The Rocket
    • 2000 GPS available for civilians; 2001 personal navigation systems available like Garmin and TomTom
    • 2000 Microsoft & Amazon sell e-books
4th Era: 2004 – 2017
  • Completion of ongoing trials for neovascular AMD: FDA approval: Macugen 2004; Avastin 2004; Lucentis 2006; Eylea 2011
  • Earlier identification of eyes at risk: regular use of OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) and other diagnostic tests
  • Prevention trials: results AREDS2 released 2013
  • Increased number of retinal specialists: eg, American Association of Retinal Specialists (ASRS), formerly Vitreous Society (see 1982 above), has 2700 members representing 60 countries.
  • Other developments:
    • 2011 First baby boomers turn 65
    • 2004 Facebook
    • 2013 first ‘bionic eye’ retinal implant, Argus II approved by FDA
    • technology:
      • 2007 Amazon Kindle e-reader; iPhone & Apple IOS
      • 2008 Android 1.0 & Android phone
      • 2010 Apple iPad
    • technology/low vision aids:
      • 2005 Apple VoiceOver for Mac users
      • 2009 VoiceOver added to iPhone IOS
      • 2010 FDA approved implantable telescope
      • smart glasses/wearable technology
      • 2014 KNFB Reader app for Apple & Android; 2017 for Windows 10
    • ongoing research areas:

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One Good Eye

Just heard from a reader who said family and friends made her feel guilty about making a ‘fuss’ when she lost sight in her first eye. After all, she was older and you need to expect these things. Also it was ‘only’ one eye. She had two; did she not? She should have been happy she had one good one! They did not think she should fear vision loss.

Good grief. Not sure what species these people are from but we humans have a pretty strong fear of vision loss. In fact WebMD published results of a survey that found vision loss is what Americans fear the most.

This is a consistent finding across varying racial and ethnic groups. We ALL fear going blind.

In fact, fear of loss of sight was the same or greater than fear of losing hearing, memory, speech or a limb. And what is so scary about loss of sight? Quality of life and loss of independence, of course. Having good vision can be seen as a key to one’s overall sense of well-being. Good vision is frequently seen as essential to overall health and daily functioning. Good vision is seen as basic to just about everything.

There are five – just five – basic fears according to Psychology Today and I can see sight loss as feeding into three of them. First is the fear of mutilation, the loss of a body part. I took a little poetic license with this one, equating loss of function with loss of the organ itself. Then there is loss of autonomy, pretty self-explanatory, and separation. Sensory loss can certainly lead to a lack of social interaction. Is it any wonder we get so upset about sight loss? It taps into three out of five primal fears!

Fear is not just for weaklings and sissies. Fear is a valuable emotion. It tells us something is wrong and we had better start paying attention. There is something that needs to be dealt with. It is not only necessary but perfectly acceptable to listen to your fears.

To address their first point, vision loss is not an inevitable part of aging. There are a number of vision changes that occur but it seems only one of the common ones is not considered a ‘disease’. This is presbyopia – literally ‘old eyes’ from the Greek – or farsightedness. Presbyopia can be fixed in one of two ways: corrective lenses or grow longer arms!😊

The Washington Post article entitled Vision loss is a part of old age but it’s not inevitable then goes on to list the rest of the causes of vision loss in older folks: cataracts, glaucoma and retinal disease. Please note the word ‘disease’.

Disease is not a normal part of anything and yes, you get concerned, and, yes, you see a doctor.

Our reader still did have one eye left, but would you like a good obsession? Try wondering when you will lose function in the second eye! That should afford you untold hours of uninterrupted worry! Somewhere I read waiting for the second eye to go is one of the most stressful things about progressive eye disease. Don’t know where, though. I read quite a bit on the subject.

Take away points: sight loss is not inevitable. Most causes of sight loss in older folks are considered disease and there are treatments for most of them. Don’t let anyone but a retina expert tell you there is nothing wrong. Most importantly, although I did not say this earlier in this page, if there is a sudden onset of symptoms, act quickly and get to the doctor.

Continue reading “One Good Eye”

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Will I Go Blind?

“Will I go blind?” is one of the most common and emotionally-charged questions asked when a person gets a diagnosis of many of the retinal diseases such as Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Stargardt’s Disease (and others) that damage central vision.  I did several searches with different variations of the question and here are some of the the answers I found.

Terminology
  • This is just a partial list of terms, please go to the the complete list – click here:
    • Total blindness refers to an inability to see anything with either eye.
    • Legal blindness is a level of vision loss that has been legally defined to determine eligibility for benefits. The clinical diagnosis refers to a central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the best possible correction, and/or a visual field of 20 degrees or less. Often, people who are diagnosed with legal blindness still have some usable vision.
    • Vision loss refers to individuals who have trouble seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, as well as to individuals who are blind or unable to see at all.
    • Visual impairment is often defined clinically as a visual acuity of 20/70 or worse in the better eye with best correction, or a total field loss of 140 degrees. Additional factors influencing visual impairment might be contrast sensitivity, light sensitivity, glare sensitivity, and light/dark adaptation.
Links & Answers
  •  From http://www.southlandeyeclinic.com/FAQ/macdegen.html
    • “Will I go completely blind from AMD?
      No. You will never go totally blind from AMD. AMD affects only the central vision. Around the macula is the retina responsible for side vision (peripheral vision). The side vision lets you know what is around you. You will be able to walk around, dress yourself and do most daily tasks. Peripheral retina is not affected by AMD and there is no loss of side vision.”
  • From http://www.besteyedoc.com/milford/macular-degeneration-faq.htm
    • “Q.  Will I go blind?  A.  No, patients do not go blind from wet or dry macular degeneration. You can, however, unfortunately become legally blind which means that the central vision is poor enough to result in your better eye seeing no better than 20/200 vision. However, being legally blind is not the same as medically blind.”
  • From https://nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts
    • “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.”
  • From http://www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk/encyclopaedia/m/article/maculardegeneration/
    • “AMD doesn’t affect your peripheral vision (side vision), which means it will not cause complete blindness.”
  • From http://www.brightfocus.org/macular/chat/what-you-need-know-about-dry-age-related-macular
    • “GUY EAKIN (interviewer): So you say 10 to 15% progress to the wet form, I like to hear 85 to 95—85 to 90 don’t progress to the wet form, but it’s the same message either way. We know that many people out there are fearful that AMD will blind them, it’s described in so many places as a blinding disorder and I understand that has some technical context to it that may, it may not be the complete story just to say that it’s blinding.  So what do you tell patients when they ask you, “Will I go blind?”
    • “GAYATRI REILLY (The Retina Group of Washington, “who has excelled in research, patient care, and educating other eye care professionals about treating diseases such as age-related macular degeneration) : Well, you know, I think it’s a question I get every single day, and it’s extremely important to address.That answer has changed over time, as you know. First of all, with even the most severe form of macular degeneration, this affects the central vision only, which—the difference between that—you use your peripheral vision less often, but when you’re not focused on something, you still see other parts in your vision, and that’s your peripheral vision, and that will always remain intact with even the most severe form of macular degeneration.  And the reason why this answer has changed over time, it was only as little—about 15 years ago, we had no treatments at all for wet macular degeneration, and the central part of the vision was something that we would expect for patients to lose, but now, over the past 10 years with research, and the treatments have changed dramatically, and what we can actually tell patients and have the expectations are that we hope to maintain good vision—and good vision including vision that’s capable for driving, for reading, and that’s the expectations that I would hope with early diagnosis.”
  • From https://www.secondopinion-tv.org/episode/macular-degeneration

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BIG News!

Woke up with a start at 2 am last night. Probably several things.

First thing that happened was a call from one of my contracts. She had called my third place of employment to schedule an evaluation and was told I did not work there anymore!

News to me! Now, I don’t get there a lot but the plan was for me to go and do a case or two when called. Maybe something like once every six weeks or so. I was never told I was being fired!

Of course it turns out someone got something wrong but it did get me to thinking. Once again, how does one graciously bow out or – hopefully equally graciously – be shown the door? Inquiring minds.

The second thing that has me a little anxious is my big ‘field trip’ tomorrow. I am going to do some sightseeing on Manhattan with an acquaintance from school. First time that far away from home without my husband since my sight loss. I know it can be done, but it is still a little scary.

Third thing: I saw Regillo yesterday. My eyes are getting worse slowly. (I am not so sure about the slowly part!) He confirmed scotomata (aka blind spots) get darker but did not necessarily say they go black. He said that he would not expect a central vision loss to cover 60 degrees of arc. That wide a loss would be ‘extreme’. Those two answers at least get us slightly closer to settling two of my burning questions from this Spring.

The big news, though, is he wants to try me on lampalizumab next winter. It appears the phase 3 clinicals are going to wind down by the end of the year and phase 4 trials will be starting.

People, the numbers of subjects in phase 4 trials is BIG. HUGE! Phase 4 trials take place after the FDA approved the marketing of a new drug. The drug is made available to the public through local physicians. They look for effects and side effects in diverse populations.

What this means for you is simply this: the first actual TREATMENT for geographic atrophy may only be six months away! This is the first breakthrough!

Lampalizumab is an injectible drug. It has been proven to slow the progression of geographic atrophy and to “reduce the area of geographic atrophy” by 20%. Dosing occurs monthly or every six weeks.

Will I do it? Probably. I really believe stem cell replacement of RPEs is the way for me to go, but it is taking forever and I don’t have time for forever. Lampalizumab can be administered locally and would avoid lots of trips to Philly. I don’t like the idea of intravenous injections but I don’t like the idea of a vitrectomy either! A 20% decrease in disease progression might win me enough time (and macula!) to have a more successful intervention later.

If you have dry AMD and geographic atrophy, it might be worth your while to broach the subject of lampalizumab with your retinologist. Let him know you are interested. This could just be the start of something big for all of us.😁

Continue reading “BIG News!”

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