High Visibility: Deirdre Hall, Daytime TV Star, Philanthropist and Healthy Living Advocate, Raises AMD Awareness

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With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 years old every day for the next 20 years and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) being the leading cause of blindness and central vision loss among adults this age and older, legendary soap star Deirdre Hall has partnered with an eye doctor to raise awareness about the importance of eye health during September, Healthy Aging Month.

In the following High Visibility interview with VisionMonday.com, Hall describes how her family history with AMD led her to take her eyesight very seriously and relay important information about this disease. In addition, Mathew W. MacCumber, MD, PhD, professor, associate chairman for research, Department of Ophthalmology, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Ill., and senior partner, Illinois Retina Associates, S.C., explains how AMD is detected and treated and what resources are available for eyecare professionals.


Deirdre Hall

VISION MONDAY: What is your involvement with this campaign and what personal experience have you had with AMD?

DEIRDRE HALL: I have been working with the Hope in Sight program for the past 16 months to help spread the word about the importance of eye health. I've always taken my eyesight seriously, caring for it and protecting it by getting eye exams and wearing sunglasses, for example. I have an elevated risk for age-related macular degeneration because I have a family history of the condition. Coping with AMD and vision loss can be a devastating experience, like I saw with my mother.

VISION MONDAY: Through your own personal experience, what advice do you have for individuals coping with AMD and for their family and friends?

DEIRDRE HALL: Learn all you can to preserve your vision and take action through regular eye exams. A great resource to get started is eyeSmart, the American Academy of Ophthalmology's public education website, which also has a brochure and DVD called Hope In Sight, which can be ordered through the website for additional information about AMD.

VISION MONDAY: What are your goals for participating in this campaign?

DEIRDRE HALL: My goal in participating in this program is to spread the word about the importance of eye health. As we get older, many of us start thinking about health concerns like heart disease and stroke, even cancer and what we can be doing to prevent them. But an area that tends to be overlooked is eye health.  

 

Mathew W. MacCumber, MD, PhD

VISION MONDAY: How is AMD detected, in both the early stages and during its progression, and what treatments are available?

MATHEW W. MACCUMBER, MD, PHD: Wet AMD symptoms usually appear suddenly and get worse fairly quickly and include loss of central vision, distorted vision (straight lines will appear bent, crooked or irregular), dark gray spots or blank spots in your vision, size of objects may appear different for each eye, and colors lose their brightness or do not look the same for each eye.

As AMD is not commonly detected in patients until they begin to suffer vision loss, it is critical for seniors to understand the importance of protecting their vision by encouraging routine eye exams and proper eyecare. Only a comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect AMD. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that adults get a comprehensive eye exam at least by age 40 to establish a baseline to compare vision changes in later years. Then, after age 65, it recommends an exam every one to two years.

This is important because vision loss makes it difficult to recognize faces, drive a car, read, write, or do work requiring more precise eyesight, such as sewing or fixing things around the home. The earlier that AMD is detected, the better the chances of preserving much of the central vision.

Recent progress and the introduction of newer injectable eye treatments have created options for patients that can help to maintain or, in some cases, improve vision after diagnosis, while on treatment. However, none of the treatments are cures, and treatment options for wet AMD have possible risks.

VISION MONDAY: Are there any experimental treatments on the horizon that might be available in the future?

DR. MACCUMBER: In addition to current FDA-approved treatments, researchers continue to research options for patients with wet AMD.   

VISION MONDAY: What resources are available for ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians who encounter patients with AMD?

DR. MACCUMBER: Resources are available through the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Retina Specialists. A resource to direct patients to get started is geteyesmart.org, the American Academy of Ophthalmology's public education website, which also has a brochure and DVD called Hope In Sight, which can be ordered through the website for additional information about AMD.