Sight Savers

Eye injections halt progression of macular degeneration.

Ann Hand considers herself lucky. The former homemaker and stay-at-home mom committed her life to her family, and it prospered with her assistance. Ann loved tending to her family’s needs over the years. Today, she feels fortunate to be tending to her own needs and living a more relaxed lifestyle.

Photo courtesy of Ann Hand.

Ann Hand

“My husband and I are retired now and living in New Smyrna full time,” Ann shares. “We moved here about 3½ years ago, and we absolutely love it. To us, it feels like paradise. We just love being outside, sitting by the pool and enjoying our retirement.”

Before relocating to New Smyrna, Ann lived in the Orlando region for most of her life. It was there that she met her husband and raised her children.

“I’m originally from Kentucky, but my family moved to Winter Park when I was 8 years old,” Ann relates. “My husband was born and raised in Orlando, and we lived in Orlando for all our married life. We’ve been married for 52½ years. We have two children, a son who now lives in Port Orange and a daughter who just moved to New Smyrna with her family.”
Ann’s present is affected by her past in other ways as well. She must manage a vision problem that was diagnosed a little more than five years ago, after she noticed a dramatic change in October 2014.

“The door to the garage of our condominium looks like a grate, with lines that go up and down and sideways,” Ann describes. “One day, while I waited for the garage door to go up, I noticed that all the lines were crooked. I realized that every straight line looked a little wiggly as well.

“I also noticed that when I went inside, especially after being in bright sunlight, I couldn’t see right away. I could see enough to get around, but I couldn’t read or focus on anything. It took about 15 minutes before I could actually see well.

“Initially, the problem affected my right eye only, but within a few months, my left eye started showing signs of degeneration as well. When all that started, I went right away to my eye doctor, who referred me to Dr. Barnard.”

Thomas A. Barnard, MD, is a board-certified, fellowship-trained retina specialist at Florida Retina Institute, which has offices in Daytona Beach, Orange City and Palm Coast. Dr. Barnard reviewed Ann’s symptoms, performed an examination and determined a diagnosis.

“Ann came to us complaining of decreased and distorted vision,” Dr. Barnard reports. “Straight lines appeared crooked or wavy to her. That’s a common symptom of macular degeneration.”

Fading Wallpaper

Macular degeneration is a disease of the retina, a sensory membrane that lines the back of the eyeball like wallpaper, Dr. Barnard educates. When the retina is diseased in this way, the result is often vision loss in the center of the visual field.

“When people look out, the retina is what captures the images, like film in a camera,” he explains. “The middle area of the retina, which is responsible for the sharpest vision, is called the macula.

“Over time and for reasons we do not fully understand, some people experience changes to their retinas. The changes, which include the formation of small, yellowish deposits called drusen, are visible when looking at the back of people’s eyes.”

“I’m thrilled with the results of my injections. … I’m grateful that my vision hasn’t deteriorated any further.” – Ann

The changes Dr. Barnard refers to can begin when people are in their 30s or 40s, or later in life. When these changes are present, the condition is called dry macular degeneration. For about 85 percent of people with dry macular degeneration, their vision remains good.

“But for some reason, in about 15 percent of the people, the body tries to grow new, abnormal blood vessels behind the retina, which can severely damage it,” Dr. Barnard informs. “This is what we call wet macular degeneration, and it can cause rapid vision loss.”

For the past 15 years or so, retina specialists have been able to treat wet macular degeneration and help people maintain their vision. Treatment involves the injection of medications that block the growth of abnormal blood vessels. But the blood vessels grow back over time, so the injections must be repeated on a regular basis.

“Wonderful Results”

By the time she visited Dr. Barnard, Ann’s condition has progressed to wet macular degeneration. Dr. Barnard responded by immediately beginning a regular course of injections aimed at saving her eyesight.

“When we first treated Ann, she had abnormal blood vessels growing behind her retinas and was losing her vision,” Dr. Barnard remembers. “Through our routine injections, we have halted the blood vessel growth, and Ann has retained excellent vision for several years.”

Ann receives an injection once every 12 weeks, and she wants to reassure others that they are nowhere near as intimidating as they may seem.

“Most people picture someone sticking a needle into their eye, but it’s really not that scary,” Ann assures. “First of all, Dr. Barnard is very gentle, which makes the process much easier. And the injection procedure lasts just a short time.

“On the day of injection, Dr. Barnard starts off by putting numbing drops in my eyes. After that, he gives me a numbing injection. He waits five to 10 minutes to let that work, then he performs the treatment injection. I don’t feel a thing.”

“Not only are the injections painless, but we are also sneaky about getting the needle into the eye,” Dr. Barnard adds. “The injections are performed from the side, so patients do not have to watch us coming at them with the needle.”

“I’m thrilled with the results of my injections,” Ann raves. “The idea is not to make my vision better, but to keep it from getting worse. I’m grateful that my vision hasn’t deteriorated any further. Dr. Barnard is thrilled as well that I’m stabilized, which is wonderful.”

When Ann initially met Dr. Barnard, she liked him instantly. The retina specialist made an excellent first impression that carried through her years of treatment.

“Dr. Barnard is very compassionate and caring,” Ann says. “I don’t dread the days I get injections because I know he’s going to be kind and gentle. He’s really a nice man, and I actually look forward to seeing him.

“He’s also very knowledgeable. He absolutely knows what he’s doing. When I go to Florida Retina Institute, I feel like I’m in the right place, especially because I’ve had such wonderful results.”

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    • Florida Retina Institute

      Founded by James A. Staman, MD in 1979, Florida Retina Institute has 19 locations throughout Central Florida, North Florida, and Southeast Georgia. They have proudly delivered Excellence in Vitreo-Retinal Diseases and Surgery for 40 years. T... Read More

    • Thomas A. Barnard, MD

      Thomas A. Barnard, MD, is board-certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Stetson University in DeLand and a Doctor of Medicine degree from University of South Florida in Tampa. After gradu... Read More