Don’t Believe Everything You Read

Friday evening. I have things I should do. Constructive things like cleaning the bathroom or writIng a report. Or studying the book for the home colon screening test.

Yep. Back to poop. I really need to ‘study’ for that ‘test’. Of course, my husband told me he took it and aced it. All the answers are number two!?

So much for the potty jokes, but I really could not resist sharing that one!

So, yeah. Things I should do but I am not doing them. When I got home I flopped down and watched Hawaii Five O on my iPad. It is great because of the relative distance thing. I can actually see the screen!

Then I checked my email and Lin had sent me an article about how yoga inversions are bad for us with AMD. Alrightee then. Let me move off from there.

After I scanned the article, I went to Google Scholar. I searched about six pages of references for yoga and macular degeneration. I did not find a single description of an article that sounded like it found yoga inversions bad for AMD. Not one. In fact, most of the articles I scanned sounded as if they were touting yoga as a great thing for the visually impaired.

The reason I went to Google Scholar? Because it helps you find the research. Everyone has an opinion but unless he can back it up with facts, don’t believe him! An opinion is no more than that: an opinion. That and $1.25 will get you a diet Pepsi. (I don’t drink coffee and have no clue how much a cup of joe really costs.)

The articles I saw that said don’t do inversions were on the general web and by the same person. He offered no substantiating data. His evidence, if any, appeared to be anecdotal. Anecdotal evidence is great for helping us generate some working hypotheses but to declare it as true, we need experimental proof.

I guess the lesson I am trying to impart is don’t believe everything you read in the papers. There are all sorts of opinions and theories out there. Some of them have a lot of face validity and seem as if they are true. That doesn’t mean they succeed when they are tested.

Once again, we try very hard to back up what we say here with research. If I go off the reservation in my speculations, I will tell you. “I don’t have a clue what I am talking about. Unsubstantiated opinion here!” One should never pass off her opinions as gospel.

Speaking for myself and myself alone, I am not quitting yoga even with inversions. There is no substantive evidence offered for the claims. I love yoga. I have improved strength, flexibility, endurance and even balance (eternally balance challenged; that’s me!) I love the challenges. I love the socialization. And that is that.

And now, I have found another use for my magnifier reader: DIY home surgery! There is a splinter in my foot. Can’t see it naked eye but on 9x it is a tree trunk. Nurse! Tweezers!

Written October 21, 2017 Continue reading “Don’t Believe Everything You Read”

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Overcoming Uncertainty

Medical treatment is a very uncertain proposition. Writing for the Journal of Graduate Medical Education Wray and Loo quoted Sir William Osler as saying “Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probabilities”. The authors report that rarely is evidence of benefit totally clear-cut when a treatment has been administered. Also, it is rare for practitioners to agree totally on a treatment.

Sometimes opinions are expressed in such a robust manner by both that the patient is left in a quandary. How are we supposed to know who is correct? What are we supposed to do now?!?!

Wray and Loo suggest doctors (and others) look at the evidence. Is there evidence suggesting one treatment is superior to another? What does the research say?

Lin and I are big on research. The truth will be seen in the research. Notice I used the word will, future tense.

Work being done on AMD causes, treatments and maybe even cures is in its infancy. Like all infants, things are subject to change. The infant with blonde hair and a little button nose who you think looks just like your father may grow up to have brown hair and a ‘beak’ just like his uncle on the other side of the family! Final results subject to change without notice. Wait and see.

So many doctors don’t like to say they don’t know. Wray and Loo say it is a mark of professionalism to be able to discuss the pros and cons AND the uncertainties of a treatment, but how often does that happen? Maybe there is not enough time. Maybe they are uncomfortable being fallible. Maybe they think we can’t take it.

Wray and Loo talk about the emotional burden of uncertainty. Uncertainty is nerve-wracking. Many of us feel better believing any plausible nonsense than being told there is, as of yet, no answer.

The problem with believing strongly in something uncertain just so we HAVE an answer? When you find out your life-preserver is actually a cement block, you are too invested in it to let go!

How to handle uncertainty. I actually had to smile because when I went online what I found was totally in line with DBT.? If you want to go back to the DBT pages, have at it.

Travis Bradberry, a positive psychology proponent, shares 11 Ways Emotionally Intelligent People Overcome Uncertainty. Bradberry tells us our brains are hardwired to react to uncertainty with fear. He quotes a study in which people without information made increasingly erratic and irrational decisions.The diagram Bradberry showed was a brain and his caption said “uncertainty makes your brain yield control to the limbic system. You must engage your rational brain to stay on track”. Sounds three states of mind-ish to me.

Beyond that, Bradberry suggests calming your limbic system by focusing on the rational and real, being mindful of positives, taking stock of what you really know and don’t know, embracing what you cannot control (also known as accepting reality), focusing on reality, not trying to be perfect, not dwelling on problems, knowing when to listen to your gut, having a contingency plan (what I have always called plan B), not asking what if questions and – guess what! – breathing and being in the moment.

Hope this helped some. Remember this journey is not a sprint, it is a marathon. In fact it is a marathon that we don’t even know the course. Keep an open mind and don’t latch onto anything out of fear. Eventually we will find the way.
Continue reading “Overcoming Uncertainty”

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Whoopsie!

Whoopsie. Errata alert. I discovered the NaturalReader does NOT support Kindle like I thought [see previous page Jabbering]. This is because Kindle books are DRM (Digital Rights Management) books. Also iBooks, Nook and Adobe Overdrive. DRM is related to copyright laws. There are ways to get around the software ‘locks’ and you can easily find these offered on the web. However, they are illegal and we try not to encourage criminal behavior. Rumor has it scofflaws use something called Calibre. And that is what I know about that subject. ? [Lin/Linda here: I had to look up ‘scofflaws’ in the last sentence.  It is “a person who flouts the law, especially by failing to comply with a law that is difficult to enforce effectively.”]

I looked at Gutenberg.org and found titles like “The Paper Currency of England Dispassionately Considered”. Whoa.

Numismatists study coins AND paper money (thought it was just coins). Hopefully they would be enticed by that title. Me? Not so much.

So far on a cyber search of non-DRM ebook sources I find nuthin’. So for right now for ebooks on NaturalReader I guess it is Gutenberg.org or nothing. Remember if you are legally blind like moi, you can get BARD. I am just finishing listening to John Sandford’s Golden Prey. Love Lucas Davenport. Also, ebooks will zoom on a tablet so those with less of a vision loss can go that route. Sorry I fed you bum info.

And in other news, I passed the 100 mile mark on my bike today! This summer I have been using it for transportation. I realize for many of you your cycling days may be behind you; however, for those of you who can still ride and live in an area conducive to bike travel, it can be an option. Traveling at 7 miles an hour it is easier not to run into things than when you are traveling at 70 mph.

Of course, I almost had my first accident today. I was riding in the street parallel to some guy on a Jazzy (electric wheelchair) on the sidewalk. He decided he wanted to go across the street, swerved right and nearly took me out!

Maybe I should get a bell for my bike…or one of those horns with the red bulb. Anyway, glad I was able to avoid him. How do you explain being taken out by a Jazzy? It would be humiliating.

And because I am again prattling about things totally unrelated and of no great importance – and because I need about 150 more words! – I wanted to ask if you folks knew we are creating great investment opportunities? OK, maybe not us personally but I found a BusinessWire report on Global Age-Related Macular Degeneration Partnering Deals. They are hyping advice about buying into research and development of AMD treatments! They think people can make buckets of money off of us!

Now, some people may think it is rather opportunistic of these potential investors, but I think it’s great. The only way they can make said buckets of money is to invest in treatment we will buy. That generally means something that will work. If research is stirring up enough interest for people to be buying AMD specific investment advice, things have to be happening!

And that is the end of this page? Continue reading “Whoopsie!”

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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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Electrician’s Nightmare

Rods and cones. I learned those words back in the sixties in science class. We were studying the eye.

Rod cells are concentrated in the peripheral sections of the retina. They work well in dim light. They play a key role in night vision. While we need rod cells for good, overall vision, they have their limits. Rod cells are lacking in sharp vision and color perception.

That brings us to the discussion of cones. Cones are located most densely in the center of the eye. Their jobs are to see sharply in bright light and to easily perceive color.

Considering many of us have trouble with sharp, central vision and ‘wash-out’ in bright light, as well as have trouble with color perception, it comes as no surprise that we, those with AMD, are a little short on cone cells. If you have seen images of the ‘divot’ in your macula, that cone-shaped hole should be full of cone cells. Mine is not.

Because we are a bit short on cone cells, cone cells were what researchers were trying to grow for us. After a number of years the breakthrough came at the University of Montreal and was published in 2015. The head researcher was Gilbert Bernier. Merci, Gilbert!

Dr. Bernier came to the idea there must be something that helps to grow all those cone cells in the macula. After all, the embryonic cells are pluripotent. That means they are capable of becoming any one of several different cells. What makes it so these particular cells became cone cells?

Bernier discovered a protein that limited the stem cells to becoming pretty much only cone cells. He actually achieved about 80% purity, a pretty much unheard of accomplishment before this.

Even more exciting, Bernier’s cells organized themselves into nice, pretty sheets of retinal tissue. Not a disorganized mess.

And if that were not enough, when his cells were injected into the eyes of healthy mice, they migrated to exactly where they were supposed to be!!!! Stem cells with the homing instinct! Pretty cool. They were doing the happy dance in Montreal.

This is a huge step but not yet the answer to replacing cone cells, the photoreceptors we lack, and ultimately our vision. As I have said before, the cone cells grown in the lab are like cell phones without a tower. They do what they should do but have no way to send the signal to the brain.

According to the Discovery Eye article on the optic nerve and how it links to the brain, there are approximately 125 million photoreceptors, rods and cones, in the human eye. These connect to two, different intermediate neuron types and 23 different kinds of other retinal ganglion cells. Some of the retinal ganglion cells communicate with as few as five photoreceptors.

In short, the eye would be an electrician’s nightmare! It is no wonder no one has been able to figure it out yet.

There is, however, a way for it to be done. The knowledge of the body – remember these cells both organize themselves and migrate accurately – is miraculous. The next step is finding out how to give the connect order. I suspect the Montreal crew is working on it even now.

Bonne chance, Gilbert, bonne chance. [“Good luck, Gilbert, good luck” for those of us who don’t know French.]

written April 14th, 2017

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Serious Work

ARVO is the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. According to its website it is the largest and most respected eye and vision organization with over 12,000 members from 75 countries.

Basically, ARVO is hot stuff in the vision world.

The 2017 ARVO conference will be at the Baltimore Convention Center starting May 7. If we don’t get this page published for another four months, the 2018 conference is in Honolulu. We could always go there!?

If you cannot get to Oahu, the ‘Big Island’, for next year, you can always view abstracts of presentations from past ARVO conferences online. There are sections on a variety of eye problems, one of them being retinal concerns.

The first abstract included under retina from 2016 talked about how damaging scar tissue in the eye can be for vision. While anti-VEGF drugs serve to halt the growth of extra blood vessels, they do not prevent the growth of scar tissue. Researchers are working on producing antibodies that will react with the connective tissue growth factor in a protein that contributes to scar tissue formation. This research is still in the (real) rat labs, but may someday be given to wet AMD people with bleeds. Remember bleeds can lead to scars.

The second one mentioned – oops, actually the third – talked about the lack of plasma diagnostic markers for AMD. Plasma diagnostic markers can be found in blood. Someday there may be a blood test that will allow us to determine who is going to start with wet AMD and prevent the growth of new blood vessels even before it starts.

Other abstracts included in the retina section talked about ways of improving ‘bionic eyes’ to provide more details in the images and, yet others, talked about the research being done with stem cells. While the stem cell, clinical trials I am interested in are dry AMD only, there have also been phase 1 clinicals using wet AMD patients. The researcher there, Zheng Qin Yin, reported vision improvement just as was seen in phase 1 clinicals with stem cells and dry AMD. Bonus!

In some studies the stem cell source was embryonic but in other studies they are using bone marrow stem cells. The bone marrow people are also getting promising results.

Never heard of subretinal fibrosis, but apparently someone is studying it! Philipp Roberts to be exact. Not sure why Philipp has two P’s but that is the way he is listed. Anyway……Philipp tells us subretinal fibrosis is the end stage of wet AMD. Apparently you cannot tell the difference between “regular” neovascular tissue and subretinal fibroid tissue with standard imaging techniques. Philipp is working on that.

Basically, there is some serious work being done to hopefully get us out of this mess. I have not said this for a while but I can say it here: now really is the best time in history to be going blind.

And if you are in Baltimore the week of May 7th? Thank a vision researcher for his or her effort. They should be easy to find. The website predicts 11,000 in attendance!

written April 9th, 2017

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