'Eyesight is so precious'
Audrey Baker believes in taking good care of her eyes. Diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in her 60s, she knows that regular eye exams and treatments can preserve her sight.
When she suddenly lost the ability to read, she was concerned that the AMD was robbing her of her eyesight. After her ophthalmologist conducted a series of tests, he confirmed that there was, in fact, a problem.
Using state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, her doctor detected a tiny hole in Ms. Baker's macula, an area in the center of the retina, the eye's light-sensitive tissue. Damage to the macula can result in loss of central vision because it provides the sharp, central vision we need for reading, driving and seeing fine detail.
Macular holes and AMD are two separate and distinct conditions, although the symptoms are similar.
The good news is that macular holes often can be repaired with surgery. Ms. Baker had the surgery the very next week at the UTMB Health League City Campus Surgical Center.
In follow-up exams, her doctor confirmed that the surgery was a success.
Ms. Baker said, "Before surgery I could no longer read books and could only read the big E on the eye chart. Now I can read again. I also love birding. It's amazing how well I can see."
"Eyesight is so precious. If everyone would just realize that and take care of their vision, stay out of the sun unless they wear sunglasses and have regular checkups."
"I'm so glad I went for my regular checkups and hopefully my family will listen when I tell them that they need to do the same thing."
While there is no cure and no way to prevent AMD, early diagnosis and regular treatment can prevent vision loss in most cases.
Caucasians, age 60 and older, are at highest risk of developing AMD. Additional risk factors include a family history of the condition, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and smoking.
Anyone in this group who is concerned may consider taking the genetic test for the wet form of AMD offered at the UTMB Health Eye Center. Identifying the level of risk can determine how often a patient should be checked by a retina specialist.
Approximately 1 million Americans have wet AMD, with an average of 250,000 new cases every year.