What you need to know about your eye health

JD: Here on YourLifeChoices website you’re listening to Mind Your Own Retirement, and this is macular month. We have Dr. Devinder Chauhan on the line now who’s an expert when it comes to your eyesight from Vision Eye Institute. Now Doctor thank you so much for giving up your time today for Mind Your Own Retirement, this is macular month. Explain to everybody listening why macular health is important.

DC: Thanks very much for the opportunity, by the way. Macular month is important because it’s all about vision, and as we know vision is probably the most important sense that we have. The macular… because your eye is like a camera, with a lens at the front, in people looking to have cataract surgery that goes cloudy. The macular is the film at the back, it’s an essential part that we use when we read, write, watch tv, recognise people and so if you have a problem with your macular then you potentially lose the ability to any of those things. Driving becomes difficult, or impossible, so macular month is important for people to be aware about because there’s so many conditions that affect the macular, and some which can cause permanent harm. The key to people’s vision and maintaining it is to look out for problems and then act on them urgently.

JD: Devinder, is it an ageist complaint, or can also young people be affected?

DC: Well the answer is that young people can be affected but they tend to be less common, and it tends to be diabetic patients that have problems with their macular when they’re younger. It’s predominantly people over the age of 50, and it gets more common the older you get. Roughly 1 in 4 people over 90 for example, has some of the greatest age-related macular degenerations. So yeah, my clinics are full of people over 70.

JD: Can it be treated?

DC: Yeah so there’s a couple of stages of macular degeneration and it’s only in the last stage that parts can be treated. Macular degeneration starts with changes of the macular that you don’t notice, patients can’t see a problem, but it can be picked up by an optometrist or eye doctor with photographs or OCT scans early on. Early on, there’s still not very many treatments we can do to slow things down, apart from having the appropriate diet. As it goes on to intermediate macular degeneration, people begin to notice issue with adapting to dim lighting, and recovering from bright lights, but that’s not always the case. When it gets to severe or advanced form that’s when the terms ‘dry’ and ‘wet macular degeneration’ become relevant. Dry macular degeneration is where there’s atrophy or a withering away of the central macular, and unfortunately there’s no treatment for that. The only saving grace is that it tends to be very slowly progressive. Can I just say that as far as the treatment is concerned, the most important part of the treatment, there is a type called wet macular degeneration which progresses very rapidly and if it’s not treated will result in permanent loss. So it’s really important, you can treat wet macular degeneration extremely well, so much so, that we can prevent blindness in up to 95 per cent of people and actually improve vision in up to 40 per cent of people if they present and come to doctors early, or come to optometrists early. It’s really important that if you have symptoms, you get seen quickly and you are treated quickly, and the treatment is ongoing, probably lifelong, injections into the eye. Which work amazingly well.

JD: Doctor how often should we have our eyes tested

DC: We should have our eyes tested probably as we get older more frequently, probably once a year or so.

JD: Every time I go to get my eyes tested it seems that there’s some new whizbang thing, such as the checking the pressure, no longer do they have to sort of put something actually on your eyeball. It’s wonderful the advances that are coming along. Doctor what do you see as some of the biggest breakthroughs that are likely to happen, or you would like to see happen in the next decade?

DC: So, the breakthroughs are to do with the imaging machines, the scanners and the cameras. The whizbang thing is artificial intelligence which, in eyes, has gone well ahead of pretty much any other specialty in medicine.

JD: Is that right?

DC: So, there are a lot of things for recognising diabetic eye disease, which can affect the macular, and a lot of that stuff that’s happening with respect to recognising, diagnosing, scans for macular disease and then I’m personally working on some software for helping doctors make decision about these things.

JD: Well you would encourage people to get their eyes tested, certainly as the this is a macular month specifically to make sure their macular is healthy and if it’s not to have it treated.

DC: Yeah so the important thing is to go and see your optometrist they are for eyes, particularly for eyes a primary care point. And the good thing about optometrists is that many of them now have their own scanners, many of them are very good at interpreting the scans and very importantly they know the right kind of doctors to see. So, all eye doctors are not the same, some of us specialise in glaucoma, others in cataracts in the front of the eye, and people like me specialise in the macular retina. So ideally, you’ll see someone who sees and treats a lot of the condition that you’re seeing because sub specialisation in eye care has evolved quite a lot so it’s quite difficult for a general person to know everything about all conditions. Generally, it will be a good idea if you can, if you live remotely it’s not so easy, but if you can you see someone who specialises in the condition you have.

JD: Well we hope that some of our 230,000 members of YourLifeChoices do take macular month seriously and look after their eye health. More power to you, I hope you get the message out across this difficult time, and that we do look after our macular and of course look after our eye health in general.

DC: Yes, thank you very much.

JD: Thank you Dr. Devinder Chauhan who’s a specialist and representing Vision Eye Institute, talking about the macular, so go get tested.



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