Vi­sion of the fu­ture

Lo­cal teacher vis­its capi­tol as vi­sion ad­vo­cate

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Jenny Thompson

Deanna Mid­dle­ton be­gan wear­ing glasses when she was in third grade.

Since then she vis­ited an op­tometrist an­nu­ally to mon­i­tor her vi­sion. In 2006, she had been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing con­stant red­ness and dry­ness of her eyes.

“Orig­i­nally the op­tometrist was go­ing to give me eye drops un­til they gave me what they call a puff test,” Mid­dle­ton said.

A “puff test” re­quires pa­tients to sit in a chair and place their chin on a ma­chine that blows a quick jet of air into the eye. Re­ac­tion to the puff al­lows doc­tors to record eye pres­sure.

Be­cause Mid­dle­ton’s op­tometrist ob­served un­usu­ally high pres­sure in her eye he re­ferred her to an oph­thal­mol­o­gist who di­ag­nosed her with glau­coma.

The Glau­coma Re­search Foun­da­tion de­fines the eye dis­ease as caus­ing dam­age to the op­tic nerve, which if left un­treated can lead to par­tial vi­sion loss or blind­ness.

“It’s the num­ber one sight­stealer in Amer­ica,” Mid­dle­ton said, “es­pe­cially among African-Amer­i­cans.”

Mid­dle­ton knew fam­ily mem­bers with glau­coma, but af­ter her di­ag­no­sis had be­gan to re­search the dis­ease thor­oughly. She dis­cov­ered she is not the typ­i­cal glau­coma pa­tient.

“My sit­u­a­tion is rare in the fact that I don’t have di­a­betes,” Mid­dle­ton said.

While glau­coma strikes blacks more than any other eth­nic­ity, most peo­ple di­ag­nosed with glau­coma are 55 and older. Mid­dle­ton is 38.

Mid­dle­ton be­gan to en­cour­age her friends and fam­ily to be tested for glau­coma and visit an op­tometrist reg­u­larly. She also be­gan vol­un­teer­ing as a test sub­ject for sci­en­tific and med­i­cal stud­ies on the dis­ease.

“ But I wanted to do more,” Mid­dle­ton said.

She be­came a mem­ber of Pre­vent Blind­ness Ge­or­gia, a state af­fil­i­ate of Pre­vent Blind­ness Amer­ica since 1965, and be­gan ad­vo­cat­ing early de­tec­tion and in­creas­ing re­search fund­ing.

“Any­way that I can help, I tell them ‘ uti­lize me,’” Mid­dle­ton said, “ and it’s hard be­ing a teacher, but I tell them that any­thing I can do, I will.”

Ear­lier this year, she and two other Ge­or­gia women trav­eled to Wash­ing­ton D. C. to speak with mem­bers of Congress about the swelling num­bers of Amer­i­cans with po­ten­tially blind­ing eye dis­eases.

Ac­cord­ing to Pre­vent Blind­ness Ge­or­gia, 2.2 mil­lion Amer­i­cans age 40 and older — nearly one in 50 — have been di­ag­nosed with glau­coma. The or­ga­ni­za­tion rec­om­mends those aged 55 and older or with a fam­ily his­tory of glau­coma should have a di­lated eye exam once ev­ery two years. Those with di­a­betes or other vi­sion prob­lems such as near­sight­ed­ness should see an op­tometrist ev­ery year. An es­ti­mated 80 mil­lion Amer­i­cans are at risk for a po­ten­tially blind­ing eye dis­ease and with an ag­ing baby boomer pop­u­la­tion, the num­ber of blind Amer­i­cans is ex­pected to dou­ble by 2025. Mid­dle­ton said she would like to write chil­dren’s books about sight.

“ One of my hopes is to be trained so I can do vi­sion screen­ings for 4- year- olds,” Mid­dle­ton said. She knows how im­por­tant early de­tec­tion is and said she feels blessed that her reg­u­lar op­tom­e­try visit saved her from a life of dark­ness. As part of her vi­sion ad­vo­cacy she reg­u­larly con­tacts Ge­or­gia Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Hank John­son and his staff ask­ing Congress to con­sider in­creas­ing re­search on dis­eases of the eyes. Mem­bers of PBGA are es­pe­cially urg­ing Congress to in­crease fund­ing of the Vi­sion Screen­ing and Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gram at the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol from $ 2 to $ 4 mil­lion, as well as in­crease fund­ing for re­search con­ducted by the Na­tional Eye In­sti­tute. Even though Mid­dle­ton had to take three un­paid days off of work to go the Capi­tol, she said it was an ex­pe­ri­ence of a life­time. In the con­clu­sion of her brief speech to Congress she talked about her vi­sion for the fu­ture.

“ The drops I use cur­rently are meant to be taken for the rest of my life and I am only 38 years old, but per­haps with the in­ten­sity of on­go­ing, ex­ten­sive vi­sion fund­ing, re­searchers will de­velop or dis­cover meth­ods that will stop eye nerve dam­age all to­gether.

“ That is my con­tin­u­ous hope and prayer.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about vi­sion is­sues, visit www. pdga. org or call ( 404) 266- 2020.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Help­ing out: Deanna Mid­dle­ton strives to spread knowl­edge, treat­ment of glau­coma.

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