New test aims to save eyesight

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
November 6, 2008 4:00:37 PM PST
Macular degeneration is the number one reason senior citizens lose their eyesight. The disease creeps up slowly -- and many people don't spot the warning signs soon enough. Now, a new computerized test keeps people out of the dark.

Slowly, over the past several years, macular degeneration wiped away vision in Axel Johnson's right eye.

"I didn't even realize that I had this, you know -- that it was building up in that eye," he said.

It's an age-related degenerative disease that develops when the retina doesn't get enough nutrients. There are two forms -- dry and wet.

"If macular degeneration progresses to wet macular degeneration and goes through its natural course, it will cause scarring in the retina and irreversible permanent loss of vision," Dr. William F. Varr said.

Patients typically relied on a grid to test themselves.

"The problem with that test is that the patient has to do it on their own and to get patient compliance sometimes is difficult. It's sometimes difficult for them to see a change," he said.

This new computerized test, called the Foresee PHP, helps doctors treat the disease sooner. It shows a series of linear dots in a pattern, and the patient has to point out if any are out of place and then the computer registers the patient's eye sight.

"It's more accurate in that it has a higher sensitivity level. It will detect a change from the dry macular degeneration to the wet faster and at an earlier stage," Varr said.

"As you get older, you want to be able to get in that car and go anywhere," Johnson explained.

He plans on taking the test several times a year. For this 81-year-old, the goal is to preserve what's left of his vision and his quality of life.

Dr. Varr recommends patients take the test every three to six months, depending on the severity of their disease.

Click here for more New York and Tri-State News

Report a typo || Email story ideas || Send news photos/videos