Baltimore Patients Vision-Good or Poor?

Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Maryland

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Baltimore Patient’s Vision-Good or Poor?

At Baltimore Washington Eye Center we sometimes hear from a patient's family, "If you say my mother's vision is good, how come she complains she can't see?" commented Baltimore Ophthalmologist Arturo Betancourt, M.D. Visual loss is devastating at any time of our lives.  In the elderly more so, with decreased physical and sensory perception, eyesight becomes all important.  It is their connection to the world.  As we age we might develop cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration.  Any one of these or in combination will decrease vision. Cataracts will affect your vision by slowly decreasing your ability to drive and read.  Think of it as a dirty window.  The dirtier, the harder it is to see out.  


Macular degeneration will slowly or rapidly affect your central vision.  This will cause problems reading with fine vision.  It might also cause a ring like area of poor vision, making reading or recognizing people difficult.  Glaucoma will cause a loss of peripheral vision.  As it continues to advance it will affect central vision, ultimately causing blindness if not treated.  Imagine a patient with advanced macular degeneration affecting his central vision and advanced glaucoma affecting his peripheral vision!  These are conditions that are easily diagnosed during a routine eye exam.  Some have successful treatments, others not so.

According to Lylas Mogk, M.D. Director of Vision and Rehabilitation and research at the Henry Ford Health System, that in addition to the aging changes the eyes experience you might have systemic conditions which affect your vision.  Neurological conditions such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's can affect vision. They do so by causing deteriorations at the nerve level, in the eye the retina is nerve tissue.  Deficits in memory, understanding and balance can all be exacerbated by, and confused with, visual loss.  

In order to diagnose these, in addition to a full eye exam, you might have to perform other tests, such as OCT, visual fields, contrast sensitivity, and glare testing.  Additionally a physical exam and a referral to a neurologist might be indicated.

So what can we do to enhance remaining vision? Maximize contrast, such as a dark object against a light background. Optimize lighting, the use of light directed on the task.  Gooseneck lamps are good for this. Some have built in magnifiers. Minimize glare, with the use of vertical blinds, yellow window filters, and positioning furniture so that the person does not face the light source.

Do you know someone this posting could help?

Guest Blogger: Arturo E. Betancourt M.D., F.A.C.S., Ophthalmologist with the Baltimore Washington Eye Center