Health & Wellness

Boomer Edition | 10th Annual | 2014

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Keeping an eagle eye ANNUAL EXAMS HELP MAINTAIN AGING VISION by Howard Rothman Above: Dr. Rebecca Brock and Sammy McKay share a laugh during an exam. Right: McKay no longer requires the aid of her guide dog, Kelney after cataract surgery restored her vision to 20/15. Late last year, Sammy McKay woke up with severe pain in her right eye. The 65-year-old Buena Vista resident had been blind for more than 10 years from what she believed was age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of permanent vision impairment among the aging. But when she sought care for the pain, McKay learned her decade of darkness was needless. McKay met with Dr. Rebecca Brock, an ophthalmologist at Rose Medical Center's Cherry Creek Eye Surgery Center, who gave her a correct diagnosis: the much more common clouding of the eye's lens known as a cataract. McKay's cataracts were as dense as those normally found only in Third World patients, Brock told her, but they were treatable. Brock performed surgery on McKay's right eye and six weeks later, she did the left. Almost immediately McKay could make out people and objects for the first time in 10 years. Today, she enjoys 20/15 vision and has retired her beloved guide dog, Kelney. "Since I have sight, it's against the law for me to have her in harness," McKay says. 32 Brock emphasizes that McKay's case is extreme — both for the severity of her cataracts, and the misdiagnosis that needlessly kept her in a world of darkness. But the incidence of potentially debilitating eye diseases multiplies with age, with glaucoma joining cataracts and macular degeneration as leading causes of vision problems now faced by baby boomers, Brock says. As with McKay, however, properly diagnosing the problem can go a long way toward mitigating it. "The most important thing you can do is schedule regular eye exams," Brock says. "Once you're over 50, you should have one every one to two years." And if you're experiencing pain or vision problems — especially if you have any family history — make an appointment right away.

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