HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Adult Macular Degeneration, AMD, is a progressive eye condition that robs people of their central vision, and it's the leading cause of blindness in people over age 65. But research and trials performed right here in Hawaii are leading to major breakthroughs for patients suffering from AMD.
Kailua resident Tim Freeman loves his toy, 2007 Shelby GT 500 Mustang, but three years ago, Freeman came close to never driving again. He started experiencing a growing blurriness and darkness in his right eye. His vision dropped to 20/400 - legally blind.
"Well, of course, you know, not being able to see, and like the doctor said, it is kind of a mind thing. It's very, very scary to not be able to see, to lose your vision," says Freeman. Doctors diagnosed the 63 year old with AMD - a breakdown inside the eye.
"If you think of your eye kind of like a camera, you have the lens in the front," explains Dr. James Lai, eye surgeon at Retina Consultants of Hawaii- affiliated with the Pali Momi Retina Center. "You have the film in the back of the eye. That's called the retina. The macula is the center portion of the retina, and that's the part you use for reading, driving."
Lai says there are two types of AMD - the more common dry form and the more severe wet form. "Basically, there's bleeding and swelling right in the center, and that's why they lose their central vision, but they're still able to, kind of, see off to the side."
Advanced treatment - which includes injections by needle once every four to eight weeks - have helped, and several new drugs on the market could reduce those injections to once or twice a year. But doctors warn: don't wait too long if you can't see clearly.
Dr. Lai says, "A lot of times, patients will say it's because I need new glasses or they think it's coming from cataracts, and by the time they come to see us, if the macular degeneration has progressed too far, a lot of the newer treatments that we have are no longer useful at that point."
Because Freeman got treated early, his vision has improved to 20/30 - allowing him to read, golf, and yes, drive that hotrod Mustang around town.
The Pali Momi Retina Center is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. If you've like to find out more about clinical trials going on for Adult Macular Degeneration, you can log onto http://www.palimomi.org/health-services/retina-center/default.aspx or http://retinahi.com.