February 22, 2004.
by Ashley Harrell,
Boca Raton News.
Delray resident Mary Haughie can’t leave her house without an escort. She has a hard time distinguishing the faces of friends and uses a special machine to project magnified images on to her television screen in order to read mail and pay bills.
Sadly, the difficulty she has in performing these daily tasks is a reality for the growing number of Americans diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The number of people with AMD, the leading cause of legal blindness in adults over age 55, is expected to increase as the baby-boom generation ages, according to experts.
The first symptom is often a change in vision, such as blurriness, blind spots or a perception of straight lines being wavy, according to doctors.
There are two forms of AMD—dry and wet. All cases begin as the dry form, but 10 percent to 20 percent progress to the more aggressive and debilitating wet form, which usually leads to a more rapid and more severe loss of vision.
Approximately 1.6 million Americans are living with AMD and 200,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease in North America this year, but according to one local doctor, recent breakthroughs in preventative treatment may be saving the eyesight of AMD elders as soon as a year from now.
“In the past five years, the development of new drugs and treatments for macular degeneration are showing incredible promise for treating patients with the most severe vision loss,” said Halperin, an area Ophthalmologist who specializes in surgery and diseases of the retina.
Halperin is calling on South Florida residents recently diagnosed with wet age-related macular degeneration to participate in clinical research trial to test whether an investigational drug prevents vision loss.
Potential participants must be diagnosed with predominantly classic wet AMD, be 50 years of age or older, and must not have received prior treatment.
The study is testing rhuFab, an investigational drug designed to block abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye that is thought to be the cause of the wet form of AMD. There are currently no approved therapies to treat the underlying cause of wet AMD, the more aggressive and debilitating form of the disease.
“The early data is very promising, but we have to wait for the results of the study to know for sure,” said Halperin.
The trial is now seeking approximately 400 patients at more than
60 study sites across the nation, said Halperin. Participants will be evaluated for a period of two years.
Although it’s too late for Haughie to be part of the study, she encourages others to get involved. The 82-year-old lost most of her vision three years ago, but has not given up on life.
“I wasn’t going to let anything get me down. I love life,” said Haughie, who hosted a game of bridge at her home on Thursday afternoon. The group played with Haughie’s special deck of enlarged cards.
Copyright 2003 - Boca Raton News.
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