Channel 3 AZFamily: RCA Creates AMD Support Group

PHOENIX (KPHO/KTVK) – A new group seeks to give information and support to patients dealing with macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S.

Whether she is cutting fabric for a dress for her granddaughter or embroidering a square for a quilt, Carol Huston loves to sew. So of course she was worried when she was diagnosed with macular degeneration 3 years ago.

“The first thing was, ‘what would I do if I couldn’t sew and read,” she remembers thinking. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans.

Dr. Sachin Mehta with Retinal Consultants of Arizona describes how it affects vision.

“It basically causes degeneration of the central retina, or the macula. And it ultimately leads to central vision loss,” he says. “Graying of the central vision, and, if it is left untreated, it can lead to central blindness.”

Dr. Mehta says there are treatments to help, including injections in the eye, something Huston say that has helped her.

“I have been getting injections ever since, and now my vision runs about 20/35 when I go in for testing,” she says. She says one piece of advice she has for anyone noticing changes in vision is to seek treatment early. “Get treatment as soon as you can. After I got the injections for 3 months, I could do a lot better on the eye tests when I went in.”

But Mehta says sometimes patients need more than just a doctor’s visit, “Being able to see other people going through the same type of thing, emotionally, it can be so important for them.” That’s why Retinal Consultants of Arizona is launching a support group for AMD patients.

“There will be doctors involved; there obviously will also be patients that are going through the same type of thing,” the doctor says. He says that will give patients an opportunity to ask questions they might not during a regular visit. “It’s going to be more of a round-table discussion.

It is going to be a way for physicians and patients to interact on a very informal type of situation.” Huston says the idea of a support group is a great idea, giving patients more time to ask questions and to share experiences, advice and tips for dealing with the disease.

But there are also other things that can help. “I’ve got magnifying glasses everywhere in the house, and I’ve got flashlights everywhere in the house,” says Huston. She says those are tricks she learned from her mother, who also had macular degeneration. “It probably would have taken me longer to figure it out, if I hadn’t realized and know what she went through.”

Patients can also find out about new treatments and research. Dr. Mehta says sometimes that is as valuable as anything he can do during an office visit. “So by having information, not only can you maximize your visual potential, but you can also go to bed each night knowing you are doing everything you possibly can.”

The support group launches this Saturday, March 19 at Retinal Consultants of Arizona at 1101 E. Missouri Drive in Phoenix. It starts at 11 a.m. For information or to sign up call Anna Diaz at 602-222-2221. Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.