This and That

Hey, guys! No idea what I am going to write about. I will just start and see what comes out. I have an hour to kill before going to teach class.

Told you I renewed my driver’s license yesterday. That was sort of stressful. I tried to do everything ‘right’ so I did not end up ‘outing’ myself. I would not want to try to pass as fully sighted everyday. I guess the truth really does set you free!

Remember: I don’t drive. My stubbornness and vanity are not worth someone’s life. I just needed to feel like a ‘big girl’.

After that I went and made a physical therapy appointment. I need to bring this shoulder back to health. Right now it is cramping my style worse than the eyes. The eyes don’t hurt! The shoulder does. I thought I was being good, but it still aches. Try trying to be active but not using one arm. Grrrrrrrrrr……

After kayaking on Sunday (yes, I know I have a bum shoulder. It reminds me hourly), I went to the phone store and got a new cell phone. Two and a half hours later and I was out of there. In that time I had to go potty at least once. If the process went on for another half an hour I was going to ask them to order take out!

Anyway, the point is this: phone store people are very helpful. They will spend the time with you. I still have a lot of stuff to do on the phone but Ron, the phone store guy, gave me his number and he promised to walk me through it all. As soon as I figure out some of what the hey I am doing on this phone, I want to load the augmented reality app and see how it works as a magnifier.

If your phone is slightly older, like mine was, it might behoove you to invest in a new one. On the new one, Ron turned the magnification up all the way. If I do the three taps thing after that, letters can be ¾ of an inch high. The easier to see, my dears.

Three taps thing? Yep. It is possible on Android phones to tap the screen three times in quick succession and everything magnifies. Three times again and it goes back down. No one may have showed you that little trick. The younger generation believe tech knowledge is innate, not learned. They think we should know.

And now news some of you can actually use, they are finding more evidence that we may be better off doing genetic testing before we start drug therapy. PubMed recently ran an article citing research that the risk allele of the Y402H polymorphism in the CFH gene is related to less favorable outcomes when using bevacizumab (Avastin) or ranibizumab (Lucentis). (Quiz: What does -zumab as a suffix tell us? Answer: humanized antibody. I learned something!) The “in English” version of that is this: if you have a certain variation on the complement factor H gene, your response to those drugs will be less than you expected when it comes to wet AMD control. If you are not getting desired outcomes with either bevacizumab or ranibizumab, you might suggest your doctor try another drug instead. It appears that, in some cases, if one of those drugs doesn’t work well, the other one won’t work well either.

Well, I guess I should stop prattling here. Need to get ready to go again. Type at you later! Continue reading “This and That”

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Eyes Open, Mouth Closed

TGIF! In real time, welcome to the weekend!

In the interest of fair and unbiased reporting, I am once again writing about wet AMD…..well, actually I am writing about intravitreal injections, a topic many more of us are going to be interested in very soon. Although there seem to be PLENTY of you wet folks getting the shots already. Did you know intravitreal injections are the most commonly performed medical procedure in the US? According to a 2015 Review of Ophthalmology article, Updated Guidelines for Intravitreal Injections, the numbers are twice what they are for cataract surgery. That makes sense considering people only ever have two cataract operations as opposed to perhaps 24 or more injections in a year alone. No matter the logic behind the numbers, though, that is still a lot of trips to the doctor.

Anyway, when shots first started in 2004, there was a ‘best practices’ paper written. That paper was revisited in 2014.

One thing I noticed? You chatty people should stop trying to engage the doctors and nurses in conversation! That was suggested back in 2004 and has been supported in more recent literature.

Why, you may ask. Do you remember when your parents told you not to bite (or get bit!) because the human mouth is filthy? They were right. Mouths are ridiculously germy.

Healio reported a strict ‘no talk’ policy during injections causes substantial difference. Chatty doctors had seven cases of infection due to oral pathogens. Doctors who did not talk had two. Granted, these numbers were over a total of over 47,000 injections, but do you want to be the one with a raging eye infection? (That answer should be ‘no’.)

And if you asked to have a companion for ‘moral support’ and got told no? Infection was probably the reason. Doctors can control whether they speak or not, but they have no control over people you bring with you. They are not being cruel. Leave the motor mouth in the car.

Other things in the best practices paper were equally common sense. Use adequate antibiotics and anesthesia. Monitor intraocular pressure. Wash your hands! The whole idea is to reduce discomfort and reduce infection, not necessarily in that order.

Pretty much, the lesson is: avoid infection. Make sure you have a nice, clean face and hands when you get there. Understand why you cannot have people with you. Be quiet and allow the medical staff to be silent as well. Although the paper said masks and sterile drapes are optional, if you want them, you have the right to request them.

Once again, the goal is to keep you comfortable and – more importantly! – keep you from having eye infections. Stay healthy! In the end, the responsibility is on you. Speak up about concerns. If they won’t cooperate, look for other resources. Continue reading “Eyes Open, Mouth Closed”

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A Dozen Years of Progress

Here I am again, trying to offer a balanced look at AMD. Rumor has it the wet folks are wondering when they will get consistent coverage of their issues. Dunno.

When are we getting someone with wet AMD to write for us? You write. We publish. Until then, I can throw a few pages together, but my problem is dry. I cannot even begin to speak to the subject as well as someone with wet could. Consider it.

Found an article from BrightFocus Foundation. Title: How Effective are Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatment? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I like how the author points out there were very few treatments a scant 12 years ago. As the baby boomers we continue to drive many, many things in the world. Pig through the python; yes? We are now losing our vision and unless something is done, we are going to break the bank with our care needs. People respond to numbers, large numbers.

Which brings me to, did you know there are something like 200,000 new cases of CNV every year in the United States alone? That is from CATT at 2 years: the facts.

I got to the CATT study because the BrightFocus article referred to it. It is a 2010 study that seems to remain pertinent today. It was mentioned with ANCHOR, MARINA and HORIZON. These are all efficacy studies for your ‘shots’.

In the ANCHOR and MARINA studies Lucentis was proven to improve vision several lines on the chart. This was in the short term. The HORIZON and CATT studies were longer term and in these some gains were lost.

The VIEW trials suggested Eylea every eight weeks is superior to Lucentis every four weeks. However, more study is needed.

Avastin is a cancer drug. Injected into the body, it inhibits growth of new blood vessels in tumors. It tries to starve those, nasty things. Off-label use of Avastin for CNV has shown similar efficacy to Lucentis.

A big selling point for Avastin is cost. The article suggests it is $50 a shot. The others are thirty to forty times that much! Insurance problems? Talk to your retinologist about Avastin.

The BrightFocus article ends with good news. Did I mention I like this guy’s attitude? He reported a more recent CATT finding was 50% of patients retained 20/40 vision in the treated eye five years after the start of anti-VEGF treatments. Only 20% had 20/200 or worse! What do you think of those apples?

Again, these gains are in little more than a decade. How can you doubt more great things are coming and coming fast?

OK. How’d I do? Continue reading “A Dozen Years of Progress”

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Blast From the Past

And now, you have been asking for it, I present WET AMD!

Not that I have any first hand experience with the stuff nor do I wish to but I found an article on the history of treatment and thought I should share it. Feel free to chime in.

Preview of coming attractions…or a review depending upon how fast Lin gets her AMD timeline done…the first treatment for wet AMD was laser coagulation in 1979. That folks was less than 40 years ago. That would have been when some of your parents were dealing with AMD and vision loss. Before lasers? Nada. Again, this is not your parents’ AMD.

Since zapping little, tiny bleeders was not an exact science (remember, this was before Blaster Master and other now classic video games. Few people were that skilled), there were some misses. That’s when they came up with Visudyne, a drug that helped to ‘light up’ the target. A specially designed laser activated the Visudyne which selectively destroyed the bleeders. Better but still not great.

The article, Macular Degeneration Treatment from AMDF, went on to talk about 3 problems with laser treatment of CNV bleeders. First, because bleeders may have been too large or poorly delineated, only about 10 to 15% of them could be treated with lasers. Second, there was a 50% chance the leak would reoccur in two years and third, 50% of the treated patients still had subfoveal leakage. Also mentioned was the possibility of technicians with bad aims and further, inflicted damage.

Anti-VEGF is put into use in 2004. We land a Rover on Mars. Lord of the Rings is best picture and Harold Shipman is found hanged in his cell in Manchester, UK. Remember 2004? That was not that long ago! 2004 seems like yesterday, but since then, 13 short years ago, in some parts of the world, Anti-VEGF has reduced the rate of legal blindness by 50%. Wow!

Of course nothing is perfect. Vascular function in the rest of the body has been a worry for some. However, stroke data has been inconclusive. There have been cases of eye infections, increased eye pressure, retinal detachment and floaters.

Not sure where we will be going from here with wet AMD. Some of the work being done on dry AMD will head off both cases of wet and GA. Recall wet and GA are both advanced stages of the disease. New delivery systems are being developed and researchers are kicking around phrases like platelet-derived growth factors, receptor antagonists and immunomodulatory therapy whatever they are. It is a brave new world and we are getting to be part of it. [Click here for the most recent review of research for both dry and wet AMD.]

There you have it: my attempt at fair and unbiased reporting. I will try to do some more about wet AMD but, frankly, the effort may not last. We really need someone to cover this ‘beat’. Any takers? Continue reading “Blast From the Past”

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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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Not Your Parents’ AMD

3 pm Monday and so far it is a good day. The pool guy is working on my new liner. The funny thingee on my tummy is a normal, benign growth and the transportation company got new vans with fancy logos painted on them. No more confusion with two dozen, white vans. Life is looking up!

Lin told me there was a conversation thread in the Facebook group about parents who struggled with AMD. People remember what their mothers and fathers went through and they are determined not to become like them.

I am reasonably sure my father’s vision problems were AMD. The more I think about it his father’s vision problems may have been AMD. I remember both of them using a handheld lens to read the newspaper as well as the really strange interpretations Daddy would have when it came to TV shows. I have no idea what HE was watching but it was not the same thing I was watching!

I have said it a couple of dozen times and I will say it again: this is the best time in the history of the human race to be losing our sight. Absolutely the best. You may not realize it. You may remember what you saw and think we are doomed to go there too but we are not. We really are not.

I tried a handheld magnifier for a couple of weeks. Not doing that again. They are very inefficient. I have my CCTV, my handheld reader and my iPad which can go in the Justand.

[Lin:Linda: To see what Sue uses on a daily basis, check out these pages: A Day in the Life and A Day in the Life:Work Day.]

I can get newspapers on my phone and books from BARD (there are other sources, too, as well as magazines which are available).  I’m able to take a picture of pretty much any text I want and my KNFB Reader will read it to me. The zoom feature on my iPad will allow me to read email and research pretty efficiently. ZoomText allows me to work. (refer to the “Day in the Life” pages above)

If I want to look at something a little distance away I can use my max TV glasses or my monocular. Not too bad.

Depending upon when Lin publishes this page, you either have or will be hearing about audio description services (coming soon!). If my father had had those for the TV we would have been “on the same page” a lot more than we were when we watched programs together. Audio description can also allow you to go to the movies and live theater and actually know what is going on.

Do I want to be losing my sight? Hell, no! This is not a walk in the park but it is not what Daddy endured either. Just the same he made it into his mid 80s and managed to take care of himself until other issues brought him down. If he could do it without all of the toys, I can do it.  [Lin/Linda: My dad had geographic atrophy & took care of my mother who had Alzheimer’s using several different handheld magnifiers & a few other low vision aids.]

Yet another reason to be optimistic is all of the exciting research happening. We are poised for a veritable explosion of treatments. Not cures, mind you, but treatments. Thirty years ago there was nothing.

[Lin/Linda: To see what’s in the research pipeline, click here.]

What can you do? Be willing. Use what has been provided. If you put that iPad your son gave you in the drawer you have absolutely no grounds for complains. Bluntly put? Your extra suffering will be your own damn fault.

What else? Volunteer. Sign up for clinical trials. Join support groups. Share your knowledge and skills.

Life – and this vision loss bit included – is the craziest thing you will ever experience and none of us get out alive. Make the most of it while you can.

Continue reading “Not Your Parents’ AMD”

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Hodge Podge

This may end up as another chatty, hodge podge affair. There is really nothing major happening and in the world of progressive eye disease nothing major happening is a good thing!

So, actually, I guess that is my first offering here. Those of you who have recently received your diagnosis or have had a crisis and are really distressed – it is not all drama and disease focus for the rest of your life.

You adjust and other things take center stage. That is not only normal but it is a good thing.

Second offering is something I picked up last month at the support group. When I said dry AMD is the base disease, they looked at me as if I had three heads. What I meant – and what they had not gleaned. Why won’t people do their research! Or minimally ask questions? – is that even though the shots have stopped the neovascularization, the growth of new blood vessel that lead to a bleed, you still have the underlying cause of the problem. The cause is regular, old, dry AMD.

This is why, even though you think the stuff we publish on dry AMD does not relate to you, it does.

Wet AMD is one type of end stage AMD and geographic atrophy is the other. Stopping the bleeding does not eliminate the underlying disease. It just eliminates the symptom.

Which brought me to another thought. I have never seen anything that says if an eye prevented from going wet will go to geographic atrophy. Hmmmmm…..

Nuts! More to worry about. Kaszubski et al in Geographic Atrophy and Choroidal Neovascularization in the Same Eye: A Review stated there are people who can have both forms at the same time. Geographic Atrophy generally happens first. (That part is bad news for me although I am under the impression that for me there is very little left to ‘save’ by building new blood vessels.)

To follow the question posed above, though, they also say there is some evidence anti-VEGF shots can increase the chances of GA development.

While that is bad news for you getting the shots it does NOT mean to stop your shots. No shot and you will bleed. Bleeds lead to scarring and certain vision loss now. GA is slow and lead to vision loss later. Given a choice, battle the bleeds and worry about the atrophy later.

End of lecture.

Other than that, in real time Memorial Day approaches and I am thinking summer. Although I know there is ‘no rushing city hall’ (to paraphrase another old chestnut), I started looking up Astellas and Robert Lanza again. Just to see what the dear boy is up to. I have been hoping to get to Philly and the clinical trials this summer. It would be perfect timing for me but I am not sure about the Astellas Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AIRM). They will need to give Wills the go ahead to start one of ‘my’ clinical trials before anything happens for me.

Astellas is gearing up for something, though. Something big. A couple of years back they bought OCATA for $379 million. Now they are on a hiring binge and are looking for a bigger location in or near Marlborough, Mass.

In the business articles I read Lanza purposely hyped the work they are doing on AMD. I am assuming that is still their big thrust. (That is even though AIRM is in a variety of areas of regenerative medicine and Lanza himself is intellectually all over the place, including developing a theory of the Universe!)

Anyway, seeing this big a build-up with lots of business chatter tells me something is going to happen. Just hope it is in the trial I have volunteered for. My eyes and I are not getting any younger! Continue reading “Hodge Podge”

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