Feb 8, 2021
FBC community member with AMD urges Canadians to go for regular eye exams
Introduction: About AMD
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 50, affecting approximately 1.4 million Canadians. The risk of developing AMD increases as you age, although there are some genetic forms of macular degeneration that affect younger people such as Stargardt disease. In addition to age, other factors that can increase the risk of developing AMD include smoking, family history of AMD, and race (AMD is more common in Caucasians).
There are two kinds of AMD: dry AMD and wet AMD. Dry AMD is more common, and usually less serious than wet AMD. In wet AMD, vision loss can occur more quickly due to new blood vessels growing under the retina and leaking fluid into the eye causing damage. The most common treatment for wet AMD is injections of a medication called anti-VEGF.
In this interview, we connect with Diane Lott, a Fighting Blindness Canada community member who was diagnosed with AMD in April 2018 and is sharing the importance of regular eye exams to prevent vision loss.
Q&A with Diane Lott
Tell us about your vision loss journey.
I began to lose my vision in the spring of 2018. When I was driving I noticed my vision was a bit wonky. One night when I was watching TV, I noticed I couldn’t see the TV screen very well. I instinctively closed my one eye and was shocked to see that half of my vision was dark (mostly the central part of my vision). I started to look at other things in the room and noticed objects in the room were missing. I automatically felt it was serious.
I went to see my optometrist the next day. She referred me to a retinal specialist the following week. The specialist performed a number of tests. I’ll never forget his words, “You have a very serious problem, and this did not happen overnight.” I questioned how I let myself wait so long to see an eye doctor and how this neglect took a toll on my vision. The diagnosis was AMD in both eyes; wet in the right eye (the worse eye), dry in the left eye, with some small forms of cataract.
Today, thanks to some vision in my left eye, and treatment injections every eight weeks in my right eye, I continue to manage my life and work.
How did the diagnosis make you feel?
There were so many things going on in my head. Like anyone, when you’re given the diagnosis of something quite serious, it all seems like a blur, you’re not hearing everything the doctor is saying. Also, as a senior widow, I felt alone during the diagnosis process. I was very glad the retinal specialist gave me a paper explaining AMD and information about the injections.
How would you describe your vision today, two years after diagnosis?
My vision is a bit better today and stable overall thanks to positive response to the treatments in my right eye (the one with wet AMD), also thanks to healthy lifestyle changes and keeping up with regular eye exams. Today, my vision is roughly 20/50.
How has COVID-19 impacted your eye exams and treatments?
I was worried when COVID hit, I didn’t know how my appointments or treatments would operate. I’m pleased to say that COVID has not impacted any of my eye doctor visits or eye injections negatively. No delays, no headaches –what a relief! My eye doctors’ office has reduced the number of people in the waiting room and implemented safety procedures. In a way, this has helped streamline the appointment process –less delays and waiting. I request morning appointments and I’m usually in-and-out in less than an hour. Prior to COVID, at times it would take up to four hours!
What would you say to someone that may be worried about the eye exam process?
I know I’m a senior but I’ve never felt like a senior or the urgency to monitor my vision prior to my vision loss. After this experience (and reality check), I would remind everyone of the importance of annual eye exams, especially the senior population.
I was so upset with myself when diagnosed. Why did I wait almost three years to see an eye doctor? There was a chance I could have prevented some of my vision loss if I had gone to the eye doctor sooner. I don’t want others to lose sight over something as simple as going to the eye doctor.
And, I would express that our vision is vital, we have to pay attention to it and give it the attention it needs. It does not wait for anything to be over, even a pandemic. Eye doctors are following very strict safety guidelines, and there are many things you can do to help reduce any stresses, including calling the office ahead of time to ask for information to help you prepare for your appointment.
What takeaways do you have from your AMD experience?
One key thing I learned is that everyday lifestyle makes an impact on your health. Today, I’m a very healthy eater and keep active but this was not always the case. A healthier lifestyle has helped me maintain good health and helps me protect the vision I have left.
Also, it’s important to educate yourself; seek resources from your eye doctor about the eye condition and its symptoms and if they do not have any on hand, request them.
Any final thoughts you would like to share?
I can’t stress enough how I wish I had gone for an eye exam sooner and not waited almost three years between exams. An earlier eye exam may have prevented some of my vision loss, in particular the development of wet AMD in my right eye. I share my story to remind others how important our vision is and not take it for granted, and not let COVID get in the way of protecting it. While I’m fortunate to still have some remaining vision, it could have been much worse. In the end, there is no harm done in getting your vision checked.
If you’ve been newly diagnosed with AMD, FBC has a helpful AMD resource page that includes a printable AMD tip sheet with questions you can bring to your next eye doctor visit. Check out the AMD resource here.
If you have questions about your eye health, connect with FBC’s Health Information Line at 1.888.626.2995 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fighting Blindness Canada is the largest charitable funder of vision research in Canada. We offer hope to Canadians by funding the best, most promising research that is driving treatments and cures for blinding eye diseases. To support the instrumental work we do, please consider making a donation today.
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