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Why I created the Macular Degeneration Risk Prevention Center

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in the United States for people over the age of 55.   AMD causes problems reading, driving and performing activities that require clear central vision.  Unfortunately, AMD has no cure.

When we look at the population of patients that have age-related macular degeneration, 90 percent suffer from the dry form of the disease.  In this form of the disease, the delicate tissues of the macular become thinned and slowly lose function.  The wet type of AMD accounts for 10 percent of the disease, however it accounts for 90 percent of all blindness from AMD.  The wet type of macular degeneration is cause by the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the macula.

Those who suffer from dry AMD are at a significantly greater risk of developing the more serious wet AMD.  With this in mind, we should be doing all we can to look for ways of reducing the risk for developing dry AMD in the first place.
Since AMD is so devastating and has impacted so many of my patients, I wanted to be proactive in reducing the risk for developing this potentially blinding disease. So in January of 2009, I opened the Macular Degeneration Risk Prevention Center as part of my optometric practice in Baltimore, MarylandI was confident that I could make a difference for my patients and my practice.

Because AMD is so debilitating, it’s important to understand what puts one at risk.  Risk assessment and reduction can start in the 20’s.  We don’t have to wait until our patients develop observable signs of AMD.  As Benjamin Franklin once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.  So, it’s easier to try to prevent AMD than try to treat it once it’s already started. Suppose we could identify certain risk factors before any disease process took place.  What if we could modify those risk factors?

That gets us into the discussion of the two types of risk factors: the ones you can't control and the ones you can.  Risk factors we can’t change are genetics, race, age, complexion and gender; and the ones can are factors such as smoking, body fat, hypertension, diabetes, sun exposure and nutrition.  There are two fairly new risk factors that are easily modified right in the doctor’s office, low macular pigment density and harmful absorption of high-energy visible light (HEV) or blue light.

The main goal of the Macular Degeneration Risk Prevention Center is to make the case for risk reduction through macular pigment density screening, prescribing macular supplementation and prescribing blue filtering spectacle lenses for both in door and outdoor use.

The Macular Degeneration Risk Prevention Center has also benefited my practice.  In today’s economic environment, most procedures and services we provide are insurance based and more often than not our reimbursements are being reduced.  Establishing the Macular Degeneration Risk Prevention Center has afforded me the opportunity to create a residual income model that is independent from insurance reimbursement.  Each “at risk” patient represents approximately $320.00 in annual non-insurance based gross revenue to my practice.  In 4 years we have added a brand new income segment to the practice that did not exist in 2008.  In 2013, we project that sales from macular supplementation alone will exceed $270,000.00.  In addition, there has been significant revenue created at point of sale in the optical from high-energy visible light (HEV) filtering lens technology for both indoor and outdoor use.

The center has screened thousands of patients using state-of-the-art technology, we have restored to healthy levels macular pigment in patients who tested low and we have tracked the macular rebuilding process through subsequent re-testing.  We have successfully reduced the harmful effects of blue light absorption, both indoors and outdoors by prescribing blue filtering spectacle lenses.

Article By: Stephen Sopher

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