Age-related eye disease causes and treatments
For our April 2022 workshop, Erik van Kuijk, MD, PhD, chair of the University of Minnesota Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Neurosciences, discussed age-related changes in the eye and the diseases that ensue.
He first discussed glaucoma, a disease of the optic nerve, the prevalence of which increases with age. Its cause is unknown, but it is associated with increased pressure of the fluid in the eye. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type and progresses slowly, causing blind spots in peripheral vision and sometimes central vision. Closed-angle glaucoma is a more severe disease, causing sudden loss of vision.
Treatments for both types are aimed at reducing eye pressure. They include medicated eye drops and a variety of laser and other surgeries. Minimally invasive glaucoma surgery or MIGS, a group of techniques that help drain eye fluid without extensive surgery, is the biggest recent treatment development
Dr. van Kuijk then moved on to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision loss. Estimates are that 3 percent of people over age 75 and 70 percent of people over age 90 have the condition. AMD causes blurred or lost central vision due to thinning of the macula, which is the part of the retina. Dry macular degeneration is the most common type and is characterized by a gradual loss of clear vision. Wet macular degeneration involves the growth and leaking of abnormal blood vessels in the eyes and can lead to a more sudden loss of vision.
There are several medications, including Eyelea, that can help treat wet macular degeneration by discouraging the growth of the abnormal blood vessels.
There are no medications for dry macular degeneration, but research has shown that certain vitamins and minerals can help the condition. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2, a major study, found that high doses of zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, copper, and zeaxanthin were effective in slowing the progression of the condition. This combination is sold commercially in brands including PreserVision.
Lifestyle factors can aid in preventing and ameliorating eye disease. These include eating a varied diet emphasizing fresh and whole foods, exercise, and weight control. Another important thing one can do is to minimize the eye’s exposure to bright sunlight by wearing sunglasses (preferably wrap-around) and hats to shield the eyes.
Perhaps most important of all is getting regular eye exams that can detect problems in their early stages.
Dr. van Kuijk fielded several questions from UMRA members and offered thanks to the Minnesota Lions Vision Foundation, which has strongly funded eye research at the University of Minnesota for many years.
—Ron Matross, president-elect and UMRA Program Committee chair
A tour of the aging eye
Tue, April 19 2022, 11am
Erik van Kuijk, MD, PhD
Professor and chair,
Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Neurosciences
University of Minnesota
Event to be held via Zoom.
UMRA’s April 19 Living Well Workshop will discuss changes in our eyes as we age. Our presenter will be Erik van Kuijk, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the University’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Neurosciences.
Dr. van Kuijk will discuss the anatomy of the eye and what happens to that anatomy as we age. He will cover conditions that become more common as we age including nearsightedness, reduced night vision, dry eyes, cataracts, floaters, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. He will also discuss preventive and preservation measures, including how to take care of our eyes and recognize symptoms we should be sure to have checked.
Please register for this Zoom webinar and join us on Tuesday, April 19, at 11 a.m.
A retina specialist, Dr. van Kuijk earned his MD and PhD (biochemistry) at the University of Nijmegen in The Netherlands. He completed his internship, ophthalmology residency, and medical retina fellowship at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where he was a professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences before coming to Minnesota.
The recipient of numerous awards, Dr. van Kuijk is particularly interested in treating patients with age-related macular degeneration; he has a long track record of research into the pathogenesis of this condition. In addition, he sees patients with diabetic retinopathy and inherited retinal degenerations.
—Ron Matross, UMRA president-elect and Program Committee chair
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