AMD Awareness Month runs throughout February, and clinicians, non-profits and businesses are all using this opportunity to spread the word on treatment and early detection.
“We’re in a new era now, where we have effective treatments for AMD,” says Rahul Khurana, MD, of Northern California Retina Vitreous Associates, which has offices throughout the San Francisco Bay area. Previously, neovascular AMD had been a quick route to blindness, he says, but that’s not necessarily the case anymore. “Our treatments have changed. We have a lot that are better than ever.”
While AMD is still not curable, there are helpful treatments that didn’t exist 10 years ago, says Jeff Todd, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness, a non-profit patient advocacy and education organization.
Early detection is one of the most important reasons for spreading AMD awareness, Dr. Khurana says. “We know the earlier we catch the disease, the better the outcomes.”
To help catch AMD at his clinic, he follows the AAO’s recommendations and advises all his patients to have a dilated eye exam by age 40; the frequency of later dilated exams should be left up to individual ophthalmologists. After age 65, Dr. Khurana recommends patients have a dilated exam every 1 to 2 years, or soon if determined by an ophthalmologist.
“In many ways, an early AMD diagnosis is great news because knowledge is power with this disease,” says Gregory R. Jackson, PhD. Dr. Jackson is chief technical officer and co-founder of MacuLogix, which manufactures AdaptDx dark adaptometers.
“Being oblivious to progression is the danger,” he says. “With that in mind, providers should consider how they present the disease at various stages, so the patients don’t feel hopeless yet are inspired to comply with recommendations.”
Spreading the word
For Prevent Blindness, “we’ve found that social media has allowed us to reach so much further in raising awareness,” Mr. Todd says. Throughout the month, the organization posts AMD-related graphics on its social media channels and directs users to its dedicated web resource at PreventBlindness.org/AMD .
In addition, Bausch + Lomb has teamed with Prevent Blindness for the fifth consecutive year for its SightMatters program. B+L will donate $1 to Prevent Blindness for each “share” or “like” of its Facebook posts from Facebook.com/SightMatters . SightMatters.com is an educational online resource created to help people with AMD better understand the condition and its progression.
MacuLogix is working with a group of AMD Ambassadors throughout 2020 to raise awareness for AMD. Dr. Jackson says the ambassador program will begin during AMD Awareness Month and will be used to update ophthalmologists on “the evolving standard of care in AMD and the critical need to detect the disease early and monitor it more closely.”
Like Prevent Blindness, MacuLogix also uses social media to increase awareness of AMD by sharing information on symptoms and risk factors and the importance of early diagnosis.
Social media is an important medium, because the patients who really need to be reached, Mr. Todd says, are the ones who are currently not seeing an eye doctor or ophthalmologist on a regular basis. Community ophthalmologists can help get the word out on AMD by sharing stories of treatment with their patients and asking those patients to inquire with their friends and family on the last time they were checked. Mr. Todd also advises practices to keep AMD brochures and pamphlets in the clinic to send home with patients, who can share them with others.
Prevent Blindness also offers eyecare professionals free, shareable social media graphics on a variety of vision topics in its online library at https://www.preventblindness.org/infographics-archive .
At his clinic, Dr. Khurana gives health and diet advice to help patients protect their sight. Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and eating a diet of red and green vegetables are both good ways to preserve eye health, he says. Taking eye vitamins can also prevent the advancement of wet AMD, he adds, recommending AREDS 2 formulations that include high dose antioxidants.
Prevent Blindness also advises against smoking and recommends wearing sunglasses to further reduce the chances of developing macular degeneration. OM