Can you see clearly now?

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For those of us getting older, perhaps not so much. Vision can deteriorate as we age (reading glasses, anyone?), and eye disorders become more common as we get older as well. Just four conditions, in fact, affect nearly 37 million adults over 40 in the U.S.

To highlight these conditions, the August episode of Physician Focus with the Massachusetts Medical Society features two ophthalmologists from the Massachusetts Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (MSEPS), the statewide specialty organization of ophthalmologists. Both are physicians with Eye Health Services, a practice of 19 board-certified eye physicians with 10 locations from Boston to Cape Cod that provides a complete range of eye care services for patients of all ages.

Guests are John T. H. Mandeville, M.D., Ph.D., a specialist in cosmetic and reconstructive eye plastic surgery and president of MSEPS; and Gerri L. Goodman, M.D., a corneal specialist and member of the Boards of Directors of MSEPS and the New England Chapter of the Glaucoma Foundation. They join host B. Dale Magee, M.D., past president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, for the discussion.

The discussion focuses on four of the most common eye disorders affecting people over 40: cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. Some highlights of the conversation:

Cataracts are the most common of the four conditions, affecting more than 24 million adults in the U.S. Most people will get a cataract (a deterioration of the lens in the eye resulting in blurry or cloudy vision), and the only remedy is surgery. While easily treated in the U.S., this disorder is the primary cause of preventable blindness in the world.

Macular degeneration occurs when the blood vessels behind the retina begin to leak. Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, can take one of two forms: a “dry” form, accounting for 90 percent of the cases, and a “wet” form, which is more serious and can cause sudden vision loss. “Wet” AMD is treatable with injections; the “dry” form lacks therapies at this time.

Glaucoma is a progressive condition that affects the optic nerve and degrades a person’s peripheral or side vision. Treatment can be customized for individual patients, but it remains a major cause of irreversible blindness. Diagnosing it early is critically important.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs in people with diabetes and damages the blood vessels in the back of the eye. The condition can cause blurring, distortion, even loss of vision due to bleeding inside the eye. The longer one has diabetes, the more likely he or she is to get this condition. Patients should see an eye physician as soon as they are diagnosed with diabetes, and every year after that.

To learn the basics about these common conditions, please join us for Physician Focus in August. You’ll find out more about their causes, how they’re treated, and what preventive steps you might take to avoid them.

This show, however, isn't just for the older among us. The discussion also includes the components of the eye and how it works, the differences among eye health providers, and steps everyone should take – regardless of age - to practice good eye health and safety.

All to help you keep seeing clearly. Now and at any age.

Photo: From left, B. Dale Magee, M.D., John T. H. Mandeville, M.D., Ph.D., Gerri Goodman, M.D.