Painless Eye Injections Halt A.M.D. Vision Loss

Learn about age-related macular degeneration and the disease’s progressive breakdown of the retina.

Injections of EYLEA into Kathryn’s left eye have her seeing well enough to paint.

Military service is a time-honored tradition in Kathryn Horn’s family. Both grandfathers, her father and two brothers were in the military. So was her father-in-law and husband, who retired from the Navy.

Kathryn never enlisted, but she served the military, nonetheless.

“I was a civilian employee with Military Recreation Services for 34 years; I was one of their cooks,” Kathryn elaborates. “We prepared food for the country clubs and other eating facilities within the military.

“After he got out of the Navy, my husband worked for Lockheed Martin, which is a government contractor, and we moved around a lot. As such, I’ve cooked in many places, from (Naval Station) Pearl Harbor to a little base in the German Alps to Washington, DC.

“I liked my job because I like to cook, and I like working with people. Besides, I grew up around military bases.”

Another, less impressive trait that runs in Kathryn’s family is macular degeneration, an eye disease that causes a progressive breakdown of the macula, the center portion of the retina, which is the light-sensitive layer of nerve tissue that lines the back of the eye.

“My father and two of his brothers had macular degeneration and went blind from it,” Kathryn shares. “My mother’s two sisters and brother had it as well, so it runs on both sides of my family.”

Kathryn’s bout with the disease began several years ago when she and her husband were living in Maryland.

“I was having a hard time seeing out of my left eye because everything was wavy and blurry,” Kathryn relates. “I went to a retina specialist who at first thought the issue was related to my diabetes. Then he said, No, It’s wet macular degeneration.

“After my husband and I retired and moved to Florida 11 years ago, I was referred to Florida Retina Institute and Dr. Barnard. The vision in my left eye was really bad by the time I saw Dr. Barnard.”

Exciting Development

Thomas A. Barnard, MD, is a board-certified, fellowship-trained retina specialist at Florida Retina Institute, which has offices in Titusville, Daytona Beach, Orange City and Lake Mary. Through evaluation and testing, Dr. Barnard confirmed the previous retina specialist’s findings.

“When we first saw Ms. Horn, she had decreased vision in her left eye due to wet macular degeneration,” Dr. Barnard recalls. “Her vision was so poor she could only count fingers with that eye.”

Like other parts of the body, the retina changes as people age. Sometimes, these changes can have negative effects on vision.

“These changes generally occur in people over the age of 40,” Dr. Barnard discloses. “That’s why the condition Ms. Horn was diagnosed with is also referred to as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.

“Genetics account for at least half of all cases of AMD, so people with family members who have AMD are at higher risk for developing it. That said, certain lifestyle factors such as sun exposure, diet, activity level, cholesterol and blood pressure can increase risk as well.”

There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. About 85 percent of patients diagnosed with the disorder have the dry form, which occurs due to natural degenerative changes to the retina and typically causes blurry or sometimes distorted vision. It begins with the formation of small protein deposits under the retina called drusen.

There is no known cure for dry AMD, but its progression may be slowed with a special formulation of vitamins called AREDS2, which were determined by National Eye Institute researchers in a six-year clinical trial called Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2.

In rare cases, dry AMD can progress to the more-serious wet form.

“With wet AMD, the body tries to grow new blood vessels to help nourish the degenerating tissue in the back of the eye,” Dr. Barnard explains. “However, these blood vessels are abnormal and leak into the retina, destroying central vision.

“In addition to blurry or distorted vision, wet AMD can also cause dark spots to form in the field of vision. The good news is that the wet form can be treated, and further vision loss can be prevented as long as we catch it early enough.”

Treatment of wet AMD typically involves injections into the eye of medications that block vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, a protein that makes the body grow blood vessels.

Anti-VEGF medications suppress the formation of blood vessels that become abnormal with wet AMD,” Dr. Barnard educates. “But these medications only stay inside the eye for a certain amount of time before the body flushes them out. As a result, anti-VEGF injections must be given continually at certain intervals. Each person is different, so the interval between injections is specific to each patient.”

“I live north of Tampa and drive all the way to Titusville on the other side of the state to see Dr. Barnard because I trust him.” – Kathryn

There are three FDA-approved anti-VEGF medications used at Florida Retina Institute: bevacizumab (brand name AVASTIN®), ranibizumab (LUCENTIS®) and aflibercept (EYLEA®).

Kathryn is receiving an injection of EYLEA into her left eye every three months.

“I don’t feel anything when I get an injection,” Kathryn reports. “They put numbing drops in my eye and then give me an injection that further numbs my eye. Then I get the medication injection.

“If anybody told me 11 years ago that I would sit in a chair and let someone give me a shot in my eyeball I would’ve told them they were crazy. But Dr. Barnard does such a wonderful job I really don’t mind it at all.”

According to Dr. Barnard, an exciting development in the treatment of AMD is on the horizon.

“Within the next few months, there will be a new treatment available for dry AMD: a medication injection that can prevent the condition from progressing,” the doctor effuses. “The drug is awaiting FDA approval.”

“A Big Improvement”

Since starting the EYLEA injections, Kathryn has noticed a dramatic change in the vision in her left eye.

“There’s been a big improvement,” she enthuses. “I can see quite well out of my left eye now. Dr. Barnard has managed to get my wet AMD under control. I still have my eyesight, and I’m doing really well. I have no pain, no blurry spots, nothing. And I don’t have to wear glasses, except to read.

“I live north of Tampa and drive all the way to Titusville on the other side of the state to see Dr. Barnard because I trust him. He’s done a fantastic job. His staff is very pleasant and welcoming. I’ve never had a bad experience at the practice. I highly recommend Dr. Barnard and Florida Retina Institute.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo by Jordan Pysz. mkb
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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 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 the University of South Florida in Tampa. After g... Read More