Spotting Eye Disease Sooner

January 4, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Losing your eyesight can happen so gradually, many people don't know it's happening.Slowly, over the past several years, macular degeneration wiped away vision in Axel Johnson's right eye. "I didn't even realize that I had this, you know -- that it was building up in that eye."

It's an age-related degenerative disease that develops when the retina doesn't get enough nutrients. There are two forms: wet and dry.

Ophthalmologist William F. Varr, MD said, "If macular degeneration progresses to wet macular degeneration and goes through its natural course, it will cause scarring in the retina and irreversible permanent loss of vision."

Patients typically relied on this grid to test themselves. "The problem with that test is that the patient has to do it on their own and to get patient compliance sometimes is difficult. It's sometimes difficult for them to see a change," said Dr. Varr.

This new computerized test called the Foresee PHP helps doctors treat the disease sooner. It shows a series of linear dots in a pattern, and the patient has to point out if any are out of place. Then the computer registers the patient's eye sight. "It's more accurate in that it has a higher sensitivity level. It will detect a change from the dry macular degeneration to the wet faster and at an earlier stage," said Dr. Varr.

Axel plans on taking the test several times a year. For this 81-year-old, the goal is to preserve what's left of his vision and his quality of life.

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