By Alan L. Wagner, MD, FACS
During the past seven years, there have been miraculous improvements in the tools available to prevent and reverse blindness.
Before these improvements, I hated explaining to patients that we are going to help them live with vision loss. Now, that is no longer necessary.
The leading cause of blindness in the industrialized world is diabetes. Until recently, we treated blood vessels in the eye damaged by the disease with lasers. If necessary, we would operate inside the eye, to salvage sight. Today, we have a wide spectrum of minimally invasive tools to treat the disease during varying levels of progression. The earlier we catch the disease, the greater the success.
Wagner Macula & Retina Center, in collaboration with Eastern Virginia Medical School and corporate partners, is engaged in research that is preventing blindness. In most cases we can restore some, if not all, the vision that has been lost. Most importantly, the effects of these treatments are durable: when the treatment plan is started and continued, more than 80 percent of the patients will see a lasting positive effect. Patients will be independent—they may even be able to return to driving. The successful treatment of eye disease allows the patients to live independently, go to work, grocery shop and cook. Above all, being able to see the faces of loved ones once again is priceless!
All of our research and treatment of patients is very important. However, getting the word out about prevention and early detection is crucial.
We tell our patients how important it is to “feed the eyes normal blood at a normal pressure.” Obviously, that’s not as easy as it sounds, but it really is that important.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, vision loss from diabetes is painless. The same is true for another eye disease – macular degeneration.
Regular monitoring is critical. It should be done both by an eye professional and by patients at home. For patients at high risk of developing macular degeneration, there is a new FDA-approved device, Foresee, which detects the earliest changes that will cause blindness from macular degeneration. The compact Foresee device communicates directly to our office, allowing us to quickly detect problems and start treatment right away. Prior to this new technology, just looking at a piece of graph paper was the best resource available.
If patients take responsibility for protecting their eyesight, we can preserve, and even restore, their sight. It is essential that patients see an eye professional regularly so that we can help keep their vision intact. With the ability to see, patients can continue to have full and prosperous lives!
Alan L. Wagner, MD, FACS, founded the Wagner Macula & Retina Center in 1987. A Board certified ophthalmologist specializing in vitreoretinal surgery, Dr. Wagner received his medical degree from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He completed his residency in Ophthalmology at EVMS, and furthered his training as the Dyson Fellow in vitreoretinal disease and surgery at Weill Cornell University Medical Center. 757.481.4400 or www.wagnerretina.com.