Shots Save Her Sight

Eye injections halt vision loss from macular degeneration.

Judy Berling is passionate about art. She began her college career at the University of Maryland as an art major. But struggles with one required course in the curriculum derailed her plan to graduate with an art degree.

Judy Berling is receiving treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) from Dr. Jonathan Staman at Florida Retina Institute, which has offices in St. Augustine, Palm Coast and Jacksonville.

Judy’s improved vision allows her to paint intricate
designs on small rocks and canvases.

“To earn an art degree from the University of Maryland, you had to learn a language,” details Judy, 74. “I couldn’t hear the language well enough to learn it, come hell or high water. My counselor wasn’t too great, and they switched my major to education, though not art education. I graduated with a degree in elementary education.”

Judy began her teaching career in Maryland. When her family relocated to Florida a few years later, she opted to stay at home with her children. After a while, Judy felt the itch to return to work and secured a job teaching fifth-graders in Collier County.

“I loved teaching and loved the kids,” Judy admits. “Fifth grade is the perfect grade. The kids are old enough to be independent but still young enough to be sweet. I taught for 20 years before retiring.”

Judy never lost her zeal for art. Over the years, she dabbled in oils, watercolors and even ceramics. After that, she took up Mandala painting. Mandala is an art form based on intricate geometric designs, which Judy paints on rocks and small canvasses.

However, in 2013, seeing to paint became nearly impossible.

“Something was blocking the vision in my right eye,” Judy recounts. “It looked like a mud spot on a windshield. I couldn’t see through it. I couldn’t even see the wall the eye chart was on. I could see nothing out of my right eye.”

Judy could still see through her left eye, and what she saw were straight lines that appeared wavy. By this time, Judy was residing in St. Augustine, so her eye doctor referred her to the local office of Florida Retina Institute.

“It was there that Judy met with Jonathan A. Staman, MD, a board-certified, fellowship-trained retina specialist. During a thorough examination, Dr. Staman diagnosed Judy’s problem as macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration affects the macula, a small area at the center of the retina responsible for a person’s central, most detailed vision. The macula is what we use to read and identify facial features.

“Macular degeneration is the most common condition causing irreversible central vision loss in Americans over the age of 50,” Dr. Staman states. “Fortunately, if it is caught early, we are often able to treat the condition and prevent severe vision loss.”

Macular degeneration most often occurs with age, as the macula naturally deteriorates and tissue breaks down. That’s why it’s often referred to as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.

“There are two main forms of AMD, the dry form and the wet form,” Dr. Staman educates.

Dry AMD, which involves the breakdown and wasting away of macular tissue, is the more common, occurring in 80 to 90 percent of AMD cases, he states. The wet form occurs when abnormal blood vessels develop and leak fluid and blood into the macula.

Wet AMD is a progressive disease that can cause severe, irreversible vision loss. However, severe vision loss from wet AMD is not inevitable, Dr. Staman asserts.

“Not all that long ago, patients with aggressive AMD would likely progress to blindness,” Dr. Staman says. “Thank goodness, we now have treatments that can prevent that outcome. While these treatments are not a cure, they can stabilize the macular blood vessels enough to keep the most dangerous complications of wet AMD from occurring.”

Stop the Leakage

Dr. Staman diagnosed Judy with wet AMD. To treat the condition, he prescribed injections of an anti-vascular endothelial growth factor, or anti-VEGF. Anti-VEGF medications work to stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels developing underneath the retina. They also help to make the blood vessels less permeable to stop the leaking and bleeding that lead to vision loss.

“Anti-VEGF treatment is highly effective in stopping the blood vessel leakage and stabilizing the disease process,” Dr. Staman maintains. “But if a patient has progressive macular degeneration in one eye, it is not uncommon for the second eye to eventually become affected. Ms. Berling knew to monitor herself daily for any changes to the vision in her second eye.

“One day, she noted that her left eye had developed blurry central vision. Sure enough, macular degeneration was beginning to affect that eye. Fortunately, we were able to catch and treat it early and prevent any severe vision loss. Ms. Berling has had wet AMD for many years now, yet with anti-VEGF treatment, she continues to maintain very good vision.”

Painless Injections

To treat her wet AMD, Judy receives anti-VEGF injections into both eyes every four weeks. She says the results are miraculous.

“At first, I was nervous about getting an injection into my eye,” Judy discloses. “But it didn’t hurt at all. The way they do the injections at Florida Retina Institute, you don’t see the needle. I would say the treatment is no big deal except that it’s such a blessing.

“I am absolutely thrilled with my treatment. It doesn’t hurt, and I can see. What more could I want? The mud spot in my vision is gone. And the wavy lines are pretty much gone as well, which is a blessing.”

“I’m overjoyed with how well I see now.” – Judy

Judy sees so well now that she is using a painting technique in her art called pointillism, where images are created using small dots of color. She’s delighted with that and with Dr. Staman and the staff at Florida Retina Institute.

“I’m overjoyed with how well I see now,” Judy enthuses. “And I couldn’t be happier with Dr. Staman. I have loved him from the beginning. He’s just the nicest, most caring and wonderful man. I appreciate that he doesn’t overload his schedule so I don’t have to wait forever when I have an appointment. He always takes his time with me and doesn’t rush me through, and he explains everything I need to know.”

She gives similar passing grades to everybody at Florida Retina Institute.

“They are fantastic,” Judy praises. “I could not ask for a more welcoming, professional atmosphere in an office.”

© 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

    • Jonathan A. Staman, MD

      Jonathan A. Staman, MD, is board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in the Honors Program at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, and a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of South F... Read More