New medicine replaces eye surgery

Before opening a good bock, 86-year-old Barbara Hindley, needs to take out her reading glasses.  But one day after sitting down to read, she started to notice that her vision was beginning to change.

“I noticed when I was reading, the left eye was all blurry, and it seemed to be getting more blurry as the weeks went by,” she told “I came in first to see Dr. Sterm, expecting it was the cataract, and he said, ‘No, it’s not the cataract; I want you to see a retina specialist.’”

Hindley made an appointment with Dr. Daniel Kiernan, an ophthalmologist on Long Island, who diagnosed her with a condition called vitreo-macular adhesion, or VMA.

“Vitreous is basically a remnant of old blood vessels that grew and developed the eye before we were born,” Kiernan said. “It became a clear, Jell-O-like substance when we are born, and as time goes on and we age, it becomes liquefied.”

Over time, the vitreous shrinks and can pull on the macula, which is the part of the eye that controls focus. Symptoms of VMA include blurriness, distortion, headaches and sometimes balance.

“If it pulls hard enough, it can rip a hole in the very center of the macula, and that is called a macular hole,” Kiernan said. “That’s a very bad situation to be in, because you will certainly have significant visual loss in that eye.  You can be legally blind, and the only way to fix that is a complex surgical procedure.”

But, now doctors are curing the condition with one injection, thanks to a new drug called Jetrea. Kiernan said this is a big game-changer.

The Jetrea unsticks the vitreous from the central retina and can relieve symptomatic VMA without the need for surgery. It can even close a macular hole. For small holes, Jetrea works more than 60 percent of the time.

For Hindley, it was just what she needed.

“It was a wonderful experience, because if it clears my vision, and I don’t have to be hospitalized and have after-effects; it’s fabulous,” she said.

Kiernan said within the next few weeks, Hindley’s vision will be back to normal – or even better.

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