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Eye Care About You


Article by Jessica Fitch

Photography by Keston De Coteau, Keystone Productions

February happens to be National Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Low Vision Awareness Month. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of low vision and blindness in Americans aged 60 years or older, and it affects 1.6 million Americans. AMD is typically dependent on genetics, but many don’t know that with certain warning signs, you should pay attention as early as 40. There are several signposts one can watch out for before it gets to a point where it would be difficult to correct.

Dr. Olga Shif, a local retina specialist in Columbia, MD, with the National Retina Institute, gives us some extra information and insight into her practice and also AMD. Dr. Shif is an accomplished ophthalmologist with exceptional education and experience. She loves the work she does with the retina and the relationships she has with her long-term patients.

According to Dr. Shif, the most important thing you can do for Macular Degeneration or Low Vision is to prevent it in the first place! She iterates that a healthy lifestyle leads to healthy eyes. Seeing your primary care doctor, having a healthy diet, having good blood sugar and blood pressure and exercising are all equally important for your eyes as they are for your body. 

The next best thing is to be aware of your vision. If you discover a problem or something different, don’t hesitate. Have an annual exam with your eye doctor, especially in your 40s and on. Eye problems like cataracts and macular degeneration begin at this age, and catching it early is the best thing you can do for it.

Dr. Olga Shif says that any diabetic should have their vision checked for problems annually, as problems with blood sugar and blood pressure can affect the eye. She says she’s even been able to diagnose people with diabetes through their retina exams! Other signs you can watch for are sudden drops in vision, new flashes of light or floating specks or lines in your line of sight. All of these should not be ignored.

All of this can sound quite scary. Dr. Olga Shif reassures, “We see a lot of patients. It can be quite a long visit, but it is all to make sure we get the best information possible and then the best treatment.” She clearly explains everything about the eye that she can to patients and then gives them a rundown of treatment before it begins. “People get really anxious about their eyes, so we give them lots of ways to feel supported and taken care of.” 

The National Retina Institute is on call 24/7 and is willing and able to answer any questions potential patients have about their vision.

How to Keep Healthy Vision:

  • Have a Healthy Lifestyle
  • Know Your Family History
  • Watch out for Signs in Your Vision
  • Don’t Wait
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