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MAGAZINE / Nov-Dec 2006 / The Betty White Interview

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An Interview with Betty White

Seeing  Clearly


GARY BARG: A very important issue that caregivers are dealing with is age-related macular degeneration as it is the leading cause of blindness in people over 60.  Can you tell me what it is exactly?

DR. PULIAFITO: Macular degeneration is a major public health issue for us now with so many seniors that are out there.  There are two forms of macular degeneration Ė the dry form and the more serious wet form of AMD.  What happens is the central part of your vision can be affected, the part of vision that you use to read, to recognize faces, to drive a car. And if you have the symptoms of blurry vision or wavy vision and youíre a senior, it may not be a cataract, it may not be glaucoma, it may be new wet AMD. You need to see your ophthalmologist because we have some great new treatments for wet AMD that can preserve or even improve your vision. Itís also very important to have a routine eye examination to know that you have the early signs of AMD and Betty will tell you about the great way to screen yourself.

BETTY WHITE: Weíre having a whole campaign Ė a ďMy Eye Health CampaignĒó for that very reason because so many donít know what age-related macular degeneration is. They know about glaucoma, they know about other problems, but this is a mystery to them and weíre trying to spread the word that itís something thatís the leading cause of blindness in people over 65.

GB:  How would someone know for sure if they have AMD?

BETTY: You need to have an eye examination by your ophthalmologist to know for sure, but thereís a way you can even check yourself at home, which is a marvelous idea and itís so important. A short time ago there was no such thing as any treatment; you just were stuck with it.

Now that you can do something, you want to find out as soon as you can. This is called an Amsler Grid.    Itís a little square with evenly spaced vertical and horizontal lines and a dot in the middle. All you do is just tape it to the wall, stand about a foot away and put on your reading glasses if you wear them, and cover one eye and concentrate on the dot. Now if these lines become blurry or wavy or if there are any blind spots, thatís the red flag that says go see your eye doctor immediately.

GB: Is My Eye Health distributing the Amsler Grid as part of the campaign?

BETTY: Yes; you can get your own Amsler Grid simply by going to the website Itís a good idea to do it because one out of every four people has a beginning problem with that.

GB: Dr. Puliafito, how common is AMD?

DR: Well, we think there are about two million Americans that have the wet form of macular degeneration, but as Betty said, almost 25% of seniors will have some form of macular degeneration so itís a common problem.

GB: What would you say to caregivers concerning their own or their loved oneís eye health?

BETTY: We should all monitor our vision and encourage our friends, family and peers to do the same.  AMD is devastating to those who have it and the thought of someone losing their vision is too much to bear. When I learned that vision may be preserved when wet AMD is caught and treated early, I wanted to spread the word to as many people as possible.

GB:  Are they any new treatments for AMD?

DR: One of the new treatments that are available is called Macugen and itís the first in a whole new kind of drug that specifically blocks the protein in the back of the eye thatís causing these abnormal blood vessels.  The treatment is very effective, itís safe.  Itís administered in the doctorís office and itís something that all seniors really need to know about.



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