Insight E-Newsletter - September 2013


Welcome to the September edition of "Insight". This month, we'll talk about age-related macular degeneration (AMD): what it is, how to prevent it and what you can accomplish while living with it. Read on to learn from the experts, add delicious eye-healthy recipes to your cookbook and meet Kenn Grainger, an extraordinary man who refuses to let AMD get him down.

Don't forget to check us out on Facebook to see how we're recognizing International AMD Awareness Week (September 15-23).

Kenn Grainger: standing up to AMD

Skyping, water skiing, white water rafting. Most of us have a number of extraordinary things we would like to experience in our lives; many of us couldn't imagine completing them without sight. But CNIB client, Kenn Grainger refused to let age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or his partial sight get in the way of crossing things off of his bucket list.

Mr. Grainger has always considered himself an adventurous guy, but when his entrepreneurial life came to an end at the age of 65 as a result of his AMD diagnosis, he couldn't help but feel down.

"I closed up my contracting business, sold all of my tools and had to give up my driver's license," says Grainger. "I was a sullen puppy for three days before I realized that it was probably for the best."

The prospect of continuing to lead a 'normal' life with reduced vision was a scary one but, thanks to CNIB supports and services, he realized that AMD wouldn't define him; it was just one part of who he was. And after receiving services from CNIB and serving as the organization's Peterborough Regional Board Chair for four years, he knows first-hand the difference something as simple as moral support can make.

Now 86, Grainger strongly believes a positive attitude, perseverance and courage are the key to a life full of adventure. Despite his partial sight, he has jumped from a plane more than once, rode the rollercoasters at Canada's Wonderland and got back on his waterskies – something he hadn't done in 16 years – with little to no help.

"I started out doing these things just to be active, have fun and give back to the community," he says. "But, I'm now seeing how much it inspires people to do the same. It's important to know that no matter what your obstacle, you can make the best of it."

Whether he's skyping, water skiing, volunteering or talking to kids about never giving up, Mr. Grainger's love for life is evident and his dedication to sharing this feeling with others is contagious.

"One thing I don't do is worry about the future. I'm pleased with my life; I enjoy it. I spend every day trying to make the most of it."


Let's talk AMD

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects approximately one million people in Canada. More Canadians have AMD than breast cancer, prostate cancer, Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's disease combined. Yet few Canadians know it exists.

In August, CNIB asked our fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter to submit their own questions about AMD and with the help of Dr. Keith Gordon, CNIB's vice president of research, and Dr. Jeff Goodhew, doctor of optometry at Abbey Eye Care in Oakville, Ontario, we're demystifying AMD to help you better understand this eye disease and how you can lower your risk of developing it.

Q) What is AMD?

Dr. Gordon: AMD is an eye disease that can lead to significant vision loss if untreated. It occurs when the macula, the central part of the retina, at the back of the eye is damaged. Damage to the macula can cause loss of one's central vision.

Q) I've heard that there is more than one kind of AMD. Is this the case? How many have each form?

Dr. Gordon: Yes, there are two types of AMD, referred to as dry AMD and wet AMD. Dry AMD accounts for 90 per cent of all cases of AMD, but wet AMD causes most of the vision loss associated with AMD. It is estimated that one million Canadians have one or other form of AMD (i.e., about 100,000 have wet AMD and 900,000 have dry AMD.)

There are very few symptoms in the early stage of dry AMD, so somone could have the disease without recognizing it. Dry AMD can be detected in its early stages by a complete eye examination, so it is important to have regular complete eye examinations by an eye doctor.

Q) What are the symptoms?

Dr.Gordon: People with AMD may experience blurred vision or blind spots in the central vision. Straight lines may appear wavy or distorted. Words on a page; straight lines or edges of furniture or walls may appear wavy or crooked. People may also experience a loss of colour perception.

People who have dry AMD are often given a special piece of graph paper containing a grid of lines, called the Amsler Grid, and are asked to monitor their vision one eye at a time on a regular basis while at home. To do this, one looks at a dot in the centre of the grid, with one eye only, and observes whether any of the lines in the grid appear wavy or distorted. If they do, one should visit one's eye doctor.

Q) How do I know if I'm at risk?

Dr. Goodhew: Age is the biggest risk factor for developing AMD. Other than that, race can be a factor with a higher incidence in Caucasian populations. Females are slightly more affected than males and AMD does tend to run in families. Other risk factors include smoking, hypertension, obesity, lighter eye colour and over exposure to UV radiation or sunlight without sufficient UV protection (sunglasses).

Q) Does AMD make you completely blind?

Dr. Goodhew: Because AMD is typically a slow progressive loss of central vision it usually does not make you completely blind. The range of severity is quite large. Many patients go years without any significant impact, whereas others have substantial vision loss.

Q) If I have dry AMD, am I going to get wet AMD?

Dr. Gordon: AMD usually starts out as the dry form of the disease. With dry AMD, vision loss usually occurs slowly, often over several years. Dry AMD may progress to wet AMD, but whether or not this happens is rather unpredictable. Not everyone who has dry AMD will convert to the wet form; however, if the disease does convert from dry to wet, vision loss can occur quickly. For this reason it is important that your condition is monitored regularly by your eye doctor.

Q) Aside from the loss of central vision, are there any other possible symptoms I should be aware of?

Dr. Gordon: A number of people who have lost vision due to AMD tell us that they see things they know are not there. Some see patterns or shapes. Others see images of people or animals. This is a well-known condition, called Charles Bonnet Syndrome, and appears to affect up to one in five people with significant vision loss.

Q) Is there anything that can be done about Charles Bonnet Syndrome?

Dr. Gordon: The most important thing is to be reassured that the syndrome is a common aspect of vision loss and that it is not a reflection of one's mental health. In most cases it will go away in 12 to 18 months. It is important to tell your doctor about it, as other possible causes of these phantom images should be eliminated. Talking about what you're experiencing to friends is usually found to be helpful and also helps to increase awareness of the condition. There are a few "tricks" that one can do to lessen the effect, like turning the television on at night. The CNIB and RNIB websites also have helpful tips.

Q) Is there a cure for AMD?

Dr. Goodhew: Currently there is no cure for AMD but some treatments can delay its progression and, in certain cases, even improve vision.

Q) How can I prevent AMD?

Dr. Goodhew: You cannot entirely prevent AMD but you can reduce your risk or the severity of the condition. Studies have shown that certain nutrients can reduce the progression of the disease. Vitamins such as A, C, E and minerals such as zinc, copper and selinium have shown to help. Also nutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin have proven to be beneficial. These nutrients can be found in fruits and vegetables with particular emphasis on leafy greens such as spinach and kale. Protecting your eyes from UV radiation or sunlight with a good pair of UV-blocking sunglasses is highly recommended whenever you're outdoors. Also, if you smoke, this raises your risk considerably.

Q) How can I make living with AMD more comfortable?

Dr. Gordon: There are a large number of things that you can do to make living with AMD more comfortable. CNIB offers a wide range of practical and emotional supports that can assist you with living with AMD. This support ranges from something as simple as practical tips on lighting to something a little more complex, such as special devices to assist with reading, or training on how to use the peripheral part of your retina to see objects that otherwise would be in your central blind spot. Contact CNIB to learn more about these services.

Q) How can I address issues with glare? Especially on electronic screens such as computers/iPads?

Dr. Goodhew: Glare from electronic devices - in particular, screens - can be very bothersome. Thankfully many devices have settings to adjust the brightness of the screen to a level that is more comfortable. You also want to make sure that you don't have any bright light sources shining directly on the screen from behind you that can reflect back into your eyes.

For more information on i.e., age-related macular degeneration or any of the answers above, please visit CNIB's Eye Connect: AMD resource.


Recipes to lower your risk of AMD

Omega-3s. Beta-carotene. Vitamin C. What do all these nutrients have in common? They're all great for your vision health.

Although most Canadians don't realize it, eating the right foods can go a long way to helping prevent serious eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

How do you incorporate these must-haves into your diet? Try cooking up the following delicious recipes, which are chock full of vitamins and nutrients that are great for your eyes. These recipes come care of Doctors of Optometry Dr. Laurie Capogna and Dr. Barbara Pelletier, authors of "Eyefoods, A Food Plan for Healthy Eyes" and "Eyefoods for Kids, A Tasty Guide to Nutrition and Health"

Nicoise Salad (accessible PDF)
This classy salad is bursting with omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA), lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin C and vitamin E.

Kale Soup with Turkey and Wild Rice (accessible PDF)
This soup will keep you warm on a cool autumn evening and nourish your eyes with lutein and zinc.

Dill and Spinach Frittata (accessible PDF)
This popular frittata is loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as vitamin C and vitamin E.




Preserve your eye health with "Eye Foods, A Food Plan for Healthy Eyes" $24.95

"Eye Foods, A Food Plan for Healthy Eyes" will give you the necessary knowledge to make the food and lifestyle choices that will help preserve your eye health and fight eye disease. Based on current scientific research, filled with tips and photos in an easy-to-read, pleasant format, it is a great go-to book for great eye-healthy recipes. Written by doctors of optometry, Dr. Laurie Capogna and Dr. Barbara Pelletier, "Eye Foods" was published in 2011.

Click here to order "Eye Foods, a Food Plan for Healthy Eyes." To browse hundreds of other Shop CNIB products for everyday living, visit one of our 20 stores across the country, visit our webstore or call the CNIB Helpline at 1-800-563-2642 to order a free catalogue.


A walk under the stars 

 CNIB Night Steps brings together family, friends, and community members for a fun 5K night walk that raises funds for CNIB's vital programs and services for people who are blind or partially sighted, such as independent travel skills. Enjoy an evening of live music, a BBQ and exclusive party favors under the stars! Register today for upcoming events in London, ON and Fraser Valley, BC or sponsor a participant at




Thank you to our sponsor

This issue of "Insight" has been made possible with the support of an educational grant from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc.



Note:The information provided in this article is for awareness purposes only, and should not replace the expertise of an eye doctor. CNIB recommends that you visit your doctor of optometry regularly for thorough eye exams, up-to-date medical information and advice tailored to your own unique vision health and family history.

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