Living With Two or More Eye Diseases
Ophthalmologists explain that Roseanne is not alone
In April 2015, comedian Roseanne Barr announced to the public that she has not one, but two chronic eye diseases that have the potential to rob her of her sight. Barr said that she had been diagnosed with both glaucoma, which can erode peripheral (side) vision, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can advance to damage central vision.
But Barr is not alone. Having more than one eye disease or condition is not uncommon as people age. “Almost all people over 65 have more than one eye problem,” says Anne Sumers, M.D., a comprehensive ophthalmologist. “In fact, I routinely treat people with diabetic retinopathy, AMD, glaucoma and cataracts all in the same eye!”
Some eye diseases require a specialist’s help. For example, AMD occurs in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that allows people to see. When someone’s AMD becomes advanced, they will typically be referred to a retina specialist, an ophthalmologist who has special training in retina-related conditions.
“I see patients with both glaucoma and AMD,” says Rahul Khurana, M.D., a retina specialist. “I work with their ophthalmologist or glaucoma specialist to manage the glaucoma while I take care of their AMD. It’s very important to coordinate care for these patients.”
Sometimes having multiple eye diseases or conditions can mean more appointments and more therapies, but it does not mean that vision loss is inevitable. Recent advances in early diagnosis and treatment have increased patient options – the key is to keep up with those appointments and care routine.
Seniors who have not had an eye exam in the last three years may quality for EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. EyeCare America provides eye exams and care at no out-of-pocket cost for eligible seniors age 65 and older through its network of more than 6,000 volunteer ophthalmologists. Visit EyeCare America to see if you or your loved ones qualify.