Nov-Dec 2006 / The Betty White
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?
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.
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.
How would someone know for sure if they have AMD?
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
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
Is My Eye Health distributing the Amsler Grid as part of the
Yes; you can get your own Amsler Grid simply by going to the website
www.preventblindness.org. Itís a good
idea to do it because one out of every four people has a beginning
problem with that.
Dr. Puliafito, how common is AMD?
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
What would you say to caregivers concerning their own or their loved
oneís eye health?
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
Are they any new treatments for AMD?
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.