Thankful for sight: Senior shares her story about preserving her vision

AUSTIN (KXAN) Debbie Pearson has spent more than half her life caring for others as a nurse.

Last fall, an annual eye exam at Austin Retina Associates led to doctors discovering wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in her left eye.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in adults over the age of 55.

In Travis County, more than one out of every 10 people have AMD.

Pearson hadn’t been suffering any symptoms, so this diagnosis came as a complete shock.

“All of a sudden I couldn’t see out of that eye,” she said. “I had been unaware of it because you use your eyes together.”

Having a family history of AMD, Pearson never missed her routine eye exams.

“I don’t want to go blind but that’s a potential outcome without treatment and surveillance,” she said.

Now, the 75-year-old is receiving regular treatment to restore her vision.

This includes injections delivered by retina specialist Dr. Jose Agustin Martinez.

“These shots control the amount of blood vessel growth in the back of the eye,” he said. “Prevents Debbie from developing a scar that could limit her central vision.”

Syfovre is the first FDA-approved treatment for geographic atrophy.
Syfovre is the first FDA-approved treatment for geographic atrophy.

The treatment Pearson receives in her right eye is called Syfovre, the first FDA-approved treatment for geographic atrophy.

“The results have been excellent, and we really can prevent people from losing vision,” Martinez said.

He also stressed the importance of annual eye exams for patients over the age of 40.

“It’s imperative that people have eye exams often,” Martinez said. “They could be losing vision in one eye and not be aware of it.”

Practicing what she preaches while her vision is brought back, Pearson said it’s paramount to take control of your health.

“Every single one of us is the most important team member in our own health,” she concluded.

Austin Retina is currently enrolling patients in clinical research trials for a new AMD treatment.

Doctors are studying gene therapy, a concept where genes are altered within the retina. This would allow an eye to create its own medication to treat the conditions of AMD by itself.

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