Newswise — Chicago (September 21, 2021) – America’s retina specialists are warning the public that millions in the US who don’t know the facts about common retinal conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy are at risk for preventable blindness or vision loss from these sight stealing conditions. Retinal disease can steal vision, but it doesn’t have to.
To elevate awareness of retinal disease as a major public health threat and prompt people at risk and their families to take action, the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS), the largest organization of retina specialists in the world, has launched the See for a Lifetime See a Retina Specialist educational initiative.
See for a Lifetime See a Retina Specialist will empower the public to care for their vision, understand the risk factors for retinal disease, know the signs, recognize the symptoms and find a nearby retina specialist for expert care to safeguard sight.
“This is an exciting time for patients with retinal diseases and for the retina specialists who treat them. Incredible advances in diagnostic and therapeutic advances now allow us to successfully treat conditions that just a generation ago typically led to legal blindness,” said ASRS President Carl C. Awh, MD, FASRS. “The fact that we have these effective treatments makes it more important than ever to educate patients and their families about ways to recognize, prevent, and treat retinal diseases. By doing so, we should be able to preserve, or even improve, the vision and quality of life of many."
A retina specialist made sure that Glen Washington’s decades long career as a musician was not derailed when he faced a retinal disease. Glen has been singing and performing professionally with a band and as a solo artist since 1973. Managing his diabetes while maintaining a hectic travel schedule wasn’t easy, and on a trip several years ago he began to experience symptoms of diabetic retinopathy, including blurred vision, which affected his ability to read and drive.
Thankfully, Glen was introduced to a retina specialist near his home and found out his condition could be treated and his vision improved with laser treatments and intravitreal injections, also known as eye injections. With ongoing treatment, Glen is back to performing, driving and can read even the smallest text which has helped him regain all of his independence.
Here’s what America’s retina specialists want the public to know about how to See for a Lifetime:
- Knowing retinal disease risk factors and symptoms can save your sight. Retina health is key to healthy vision, yet it is often overlooked until visual changes occur. Knowing the risks and catching any early signs of disease can help preserve vision from blinding eye conditions like diabetic retinopathy or AMD. Common adult symptoms of retinal disease include blurred central vision, distortion or straight lines appearing wavy, and sudden onset of floaters or flashes of light. Common risk factors for retinal disease include older age, family history, smoking, and high blood pressure and cholesterol, or diabetes. The public should seek care immediately if they experience sudden changes in vision rather than delaying care during the COVID-19 pandemic, which could lead to vision loss.
- Early detection is a game changer. Many retinal diseases have few noticeable symptoms in their early stages. With regular dilated retina exams, your eye physician can help preserve your sight by detecting signs of a retina condition early, before extensive damage occurs. During a dilated retina exam, your eye physician takes a very close look at the back of your eye to check for any problems and will refer you to a retina specialist if there are signs of a retinal condition. Patients who seek care from a retina specialist in a timely manner have the best chance at persevering or improving their vision.
- Retina specialists can help you See for a Lifetime: Innovative treatments developed and delivered by retina specialists can prevent vision loss, allowing patients to maintain active, independent lives. Retina specialists are among the most extensively trained and highly skilled eye care providers, with mastery of the newest and most sophisticated tools and surgical techniques available to diagnose and treat retinal diseases. With the right screening, and ongoing monitoring and treatment, almost all patients with retinal diseases can avoid significant vision loss. If you're at risk for retinal disease because of family history or underlying conditions such as diabetes or if you experience symptoms of a retinal condition, see a retina specialist as soon as possible.
The burden of retinal disease and resulting preventable blindness and low vision is significant:
- Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of preventable blindness in US working-age adults and occurs when diabetes damages blood vessels in the retina. It affects 7.7 million Americans, a number projected to double by 2050.
- As many as 11 million people in the United States have some form of AMD, a condition caused by a deterioration of the retina that leads to a loss of central vision. As Americans continue to live longer, this number is expected to double by 2050. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in people over 65.
- Vision loss and blindness account for $8 billion in lost productivity annually, posing a tremendous challenge to those who would otherwise remain in the workforce beyond age 65.
The See for a Lifetime See a Retina Specialist initiative features consumer educational resources and communications tailored to patient advocacy organizations, healthcare professionals and policymakers, including an online patient portal with access to infographics, patient guides, a patient poster, Eye to Eye video series, Retina Health for Life podcast series, patient stories, condition specific fact sheets in English and Spanish, a find a retina specialist locator, and more. Follow ASRS on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to receive the latest information about retina health and the See for a Lifetime See a Retina Specialist initiative.
“Through this initiative, we aim to make the public, as well as healthcare providers, aware of the most threatening retinal diseases, the major advances that have been made, and why it is important for patients with retinal conditions to see a retina specialist”, said Timothy G. Murray, MD, MBA, FASRS, President of the Foundation of the ASRS. “Additionally, given the complexity of our healthcare system, we want to elevate understanding among payers and policymakers that evidence-based, personalized care delivered by retina specialists leads to better patient outcomes.”
More information and resources can be found at SeeforaLifetime.org.
See for a Lifetime is made possible in part through generous support from the Foundation of the American Society of Retina Specialists, Allergan, Genentech, Novartis, and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.
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The American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS) is the largest organization of retina specialists in the world, representing more than 3,000 physicians in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 63 countries. Retina specialists are board-certified ophthalmologists who have completed fellowship training in the medical and surgical treatment of retinal diseases. The mission of the ASRS is to provide a collegial and open forum for education, to advance the understanding and treatment of vitreoretinal diseases, and to enhance the ability of its members to provide the highest quality of patient care. The mission of the Foundation of the American Society of Retina Specialists, the charitable arm of American Society of Retina Specialists, is to improve the quality of life for all people with retinal diseases through retina health education and awareness activities and to support the education of retina specialists. Learn more at ASRS.org. Like ASRS on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and follow us on Twitter for the latest retina health information.
About the Foundation of the ASRS
Through its activities, the Foundation of the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS) is raising awareness about retina health and educating the public, patients, their families and caretakers about how to safeguard their retina health to ensure a lifetime of independence and activity. In addition to patient education, the Foundation is committed to enhancing education for young retina specialists and serving as a resource for information on game-changing research and emerging treatments that will dramatically enhance the lives of patients in the years ahead. Learn more and make a difference by supporting the Foundation of the ASRS by visiting asrs.org/foundation.