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WYPL Radio Interview: Eye on Vision

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Dr. Diane Bovenkamp

Vance Durbin, from WYPL's Eye on Vision program, interviews Dr. Diane Bovenkamp about macular degeneration and glaucoma.

  • Vance Durbin (on behalf of WYPL): It's nice to have Diane with us today. First of all, Diane what is the American Health Assistance Foundation something will call AHAF for short.

    Dr. Diane Bovenkamp: Yeah, AHAF is a nonprofit organization that seeks to eradicate age related degenerative diseases. So this includes macular degeneration glaucoma and Alzheimer’s disease by advancing research to see causes, Prevention's, and treatments, and to also assist those who are affected through education and promoting healthy behaviors to combat these diseases.

    Durbin: What is the dry and wet forms of macular degeneration?

    Dr. Bovenkamp: Well, more than 11 million people in the US have age related macular degeneration and I'll call that AMD in the future where there's a breakdown of the macula that's the center of the light detecting part of the eye called the retina, so sharp clear straight ahead vision, color and fine detail or processed by the macula and when this area's damage you can get blurred or distorted vision and difficulty with you know many daily activities such as driving and reading. So to answer your questions, there are two forms of AMD to dry and wet. So dry AMD is the most common type which is diagnosed and up to 90% of cases. In this case, yellow waste deposits called ‘drusen’ collect under the retina. At early stages, there may be a little disruption in vision so you may not notice it. But as the disease progresses this could eventually cause the light detecting cells in the back of the eye to die where you get you can get a spotty loss of vision. The other form, wet AMD is usually caused by a breakdown of the barrier in the retina usually near these drusen deposits around the macula so unwanted blood vessels grow through these breaks, leaking fluid, and this could result in scarring and a risk for rapid and severe waviness or loss of the straight ahead visions and the wet form accounts for approximately 10% of all cases of AMD. But it results in 90% of the cases that lead to blindness.

    Durbin: Diane, what is glaucoma?

    Dr. Bovenkamp: So glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can occur with high, normal, or even less than normal eye pressure. About 2.8 million Americans have glaucoma and another 2.8 million may have the disease and not know it. And there are two main forms of glaucoma called Open angle and angle closure. The open angle glaucoma is the most common affecting up to 90 or 95% of people. Usually there's no symptoms at first but as eye pressure gradually builds, at some point, this pressure can damage the optic nerve, a cable that leaves the back of the eye and carries information to the brain about vision so you can actually lose your side vision as the optic nerve has more pressure on it. And without treatment someone can become totally blind. The second most common type of angle closure can actually happen suddenly over time and the sudden cases the normal fluid flow of the fluid in the eye suddenly block which could cause severe symptoms like pain and nausea and you could use vision right away so you need to go to the doctor very quickly.

    Durbin: When were instructional videos first put on the website?

    Dr. Bovenkamp: We actually just put a series of animated videos by the company Eye Imaginations last month.

    Durbin: What information about AMD can be found in these videos?

    Dr. Bovenkamp: These videos are great addition to the comprehensive assortment of resources offered by AHAF. I think both people who are affected by AMD and their family members will appreciate them; when you go on to our website and we can give the link to that later. They're kind of 4 general categories for videos for AMD macular conditions, tests and treatment, anatomy, and glasses and contacts. So I would suggest that if you go on there to get the core of what goes wrong for AMD, you can first look at the four videos and the macular conditions section and then go to the tests and treatments to learn more about treatments he might encounter in your doctor's office.

    Durbin: Now we talked about what the videos say about AMD. What did the video say about glaucoma?

    Dr. Bovenkamp: Yeah, three general categories in video for glaucoma. One is called glaucoma. Another one is on tests and treatments and another one is just on the eye anatomy of the parts affected by glaucoma. So like for AMD you could start with the introduction to glaucoma series of videos and then look at specific anatomy and the test and treatment section for further information or clarification.

    Durbin: Diane very importantly, how can users find links to the videos on AMD and glaucoma?

    Dr. Bovenkamp: So the macular degeneration videos are available at And the glaucoma animations videos are available at

    Durbin: What other resources on the website can help those visual impairment?

    Dr. Bovenkamp: Yeah those are great accompaniment to the large number of resources that we do have on our website. It's all free, a free publications fact sheet. There are some podcasts there and videos and we have an Ask the Expert section where you can actually have your own personal questions submitted on the website they can send to a doctor for them to answer them, we you can sign up to receive free news updates. We actually also have a children's corner for macular degeneration to name a few. And the website also offer a service resources for those living with the effects of macular degeneration and glaucoma. So that includes ways to accommodate changing needs, like how to stay safe, use low vision, aid, find financial and legal assistance. And most recently, we actually have a list of some smartphone app for the blind and visually impaired.

    Durbin: What feedback have you gotten from users about the videos?

    Dr. Bovenkamp: Well, we've been getting some wonderful feedback from a number of our constituents. One example is someone said that they were wonderful. The movies make it so much easier to understand what is happening in the eye. If you have these eye diseases, some concepts are just much easier to understand using images or video. So this example would, an example of this would be in glaucoma. There's something called the ciliary body that creates the fluid in the eye. But if there's a blockage that was what causes increased pressure, but the animation is just wonderful. It shows you exactly what exactly happens in that case that can be difficult to describe in words.

    Durbin: And finally, Diane, how can listeners get more information about the American Health Assistance Foundation?

    Dr. Bovenkamp: Well, you can go to our website we have a telephone number, email and we actually have social media. So for our website, the main one If you want more information just on glaucoma, you would go to, or for macular degeneration we'd go to The toll free number is 1-800-437-2423. Our email address is and our social media section that has we actually have Facebook Twitter and Google Plus and some other social media is

    Durbin: Thank you for being with us today. We've been speaking with Diane Bovenkamp who is science communication specialist with the American Health Assistance Foundation. They have for short in Clarksburg, Maryland. This is Eye on Vision.

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