Eye Care Specialists utilize breakthrough procedure to save vision
When Lois Rose, 80, of Racine was referred by her optometrist to Eye Care Specialists ophthalmology practice in the Milwaukee area, she had already been coping with “dry” age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in both eyes for a number of years. “The macular degeneration was a gradual thing,” explains Rose who, despite being legally blind in her right eye, was still able to rely on the good vision in her left eye for driving, reading, and dayto- day activities. Last summer, however, Rose’s situation changed dramatically. After failing her driver’s test, she discovered that she was now legally blind in both eyes. The left eye that she had always counted on had developed the “wet” form of AMD and was now also reduced to 20/200 vision.
Rose’s ophthalmologist, Dr. Mark Freedman, explains, “AMD is a condition in which the macula, a highly sensitive area of the retina responsible for central and detail vision (about the size of this “O”), is damaged. There are two forms of AMD. Both cause loss of central or straightahead vision (as needed for driving a car, reading fine print and recognizing faces) but, fortunately, not side vision. ‘Dry’ AMD is more common (90% of cases), progresses slowly, and is caused by a thinning of macular tissue. ‘Wet’ AMD is less common, can progress quickly, and is marked by the growth of abnormal new blood vessels under the macula, which can leak fluid and blood. This leakage can create scar tissue which causes blind spots and profound loss of sharp central vision. The earlier this condition is detected, the better the chances of preserving vision.”
At Freedman’s recommendation, Rose immediately underwent Avastin injection treatment. Avastin is a revolutionary drug that inhibits the growth of the abnormal blood vessels that cause the wet form of AMD. (It is also used to treat diabetes-related vision damage.)
“At first, after the injection, my vision was still blurry. But, after about three weeks, I thought, gee, everything looks good on TV; everything looks good on my Amsler grid (an at-home vision testing tool).” Things were looking good. In fact, when Rose came in for her follow-up appointment a month later, her vision had improved to an impressive 20/25! Happily, with several follow-up injections, Rose has maintained this level of vision and has been able to renew her driver’s license. She exclaims, “I am so eternally grateful that Dr. Freedman was able to help me. I had lost my independence. I thought I would be homebound for the rest of my life. I am so happy I can take care of myself, read the newspaper, do crossword puzzles, and drive to church and the store. I was really pretty scared there for a while.”
Ronald Welden, 73, of Wind Lake knows that same frightened feeling. “Just six months after a routine eye exam with my optometrist, I noticed my vision changing again rather quickly. I started to notice that telephone poles looked kind of wavy. I saw my optometrist again, and he said I should go to Eye Care Specialists because they would know exactly how to take care of me.” When Welden received the diagnosis of AMD, he had never even heard of the disease.
“Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of central vision impairment in Americans over age 50. As baby boomers age and life expectancy increases, AMD looms as a growing health and cost concern,” warns Brett Rhode, MD, Head of Ophthalmology at Aurora Sinai Medical Center and private practitioner in downtown Milwaukee and West Allis. “That’s why we’re so excited about the results we’re getting with this breakthrough treatment that we can do right in the office.”
“Although there are NO guarantees, we have seen remarkable results with Avastin. A few years ago, there wasn’t much we could do. But, with regular injections (about every month or so), we have been able to stop the progression of wet AMD in 90% of our patients, and even had up to 30% gain improvement in vision,” adds Daniel Ferguson, MD, a partner at Eye Care Specialists, where thousands of AMD patients are diagnosed and treated each year.
Welden, a father of four and grandfather of eight, is one of those fortunate patients. “Because they caught my condition right away, it hasn’t really affected the things that I love to do.” He explains that “the injections are virtually painless” and the results have been called a “miracle.” As such, AMD hasn’t slowed him down a bit. “I’ve got things I like to do year-round,” says Welden who enjoys numerous diversions, including fishing on Wind Lake, tending his flower garden, collecting casino chips, trading on eBay, and model railroading (he has an entire room devoted to his train hobby). “I’m really lucky,” notes Welden whose prompt diagnosis and treatment has enabled him to continue to “see” life to the fullest.
Free educational booklets & information
Eye Care Specialists’ doctors are dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of AMD, glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and cataracts. They frequently lecture to the public and fellow physicians and have written their own series of booklets on these conditions. Call 414- 321-7035 for FREE copies or to schedule an appointment for a thorough eye screening (usually covered by insurance or Medicare) at their offices on 7th & Wisconsin Avenue, Mayfair Road across from the mall, or 102nd & National. They also offer information at www.eyecarespecialists.net.