Early detection key in slowing eye disease progression

Early detection key in slowing eye disease progression

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss and it is considered an incurable eye disease today.  Still, if caught early, there are therapies that can dramatically slow its progression.

Dr. William Hart at Hart Eye Center in Lake Charles spends his days looking at patients' eyes. One of the conditions he treats the most is macular degeneration, a progressive eye disease with both aging and genetic factors.

"That tiny spot that receives the light most clearly because of the way the retina is structured is called the macula," explained Dr. Hart.  "Because of the anatomy of the macula, it's vulnerable to vascular disease or degeneration of the macula."

That can be seen most clearly through OCT or Optical Coherence Tomography, using infrared light waves to take cross-section pictures of your retina.

"It's a laser scanner essentially," said Dr. Hart. "The patient puts their head up against the instrument and the technician then can center the patient's eyes onto the machine and then hits the process to start. The scanning begins and the images produced."

Dr. Hart dais what makes this technology so incredible is the power to see through the retina, which is like a window to the body's blood vessels and undiagnosed vascular diseases.

"This allows us to look at the person's retina if we're starting to be even mildly suspicious and look at the blood vessel structure under the retina," he said.

If a problem is detected, special vitamins can be prescribed, along with other therapies.

"We increase therapy or even use in some cases laser or injections of medicine that will stop the new blood vessel growth," said Dr. Hart.

The biggest warning sign of macular degeneration is blurred vision. If left untreated, central vision loss typically occurs within 15 years. It is something that can be slowed with monitoring and treatment. 

Macular degeneration generally begins in people between the ages of 55 and 65. It is important to have routine eye exams as you age, to stay on top of any vision changes.

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