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Study finds early blindness frequently misdiagnosed

A new study has found that one in four optical patients in Montana and across the United States are misdiagnosed during their eye exams. Researchers at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, carried out the study and found that approximately 25 percent of patients who had age-related macular degeneration (AMD) were misdiagnosed by eye professionals.

The study reexamined 644 patients who had previously undergone an eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist with dilation. All of the patients had been found to have normal vision during the exam, but the reexamination found that a fourth of the patients had signs of AMD. Currently, AMD is the main cause of permanent vision loss in individuals who are older than 50.

Though there is currently no cure for AMD, if the condition is found early and treatment begins right away, there are ways to decelerate the progression of the disease and possibly halt vision loss. Early treatment typically includes dietary changes, vitamin supplementation and injections of anti-VEGF medications. The study found that approximately 30 percent of the patients who had early symptoms of AMD would have benefited from the treatment. Researchers recommend that doctors be more vigilant when performing exams on patients in order to not miss diagnosing AMD in the early stages. They also suggest that people be aware of the symptoms of AMD, which include blurry vision, dark spots and the appearance of wavy lines that are actually straight.

People with AMD who were initially misdiagnosed may not receive the necessary early treatment that could preserve their vision. This may result in more costly medical treatments, loss of work and loss of enjoyment. Patients who have experienced a failure of diagnosis may be eligible for compensation for their losses due to medical malpractice. In order to win such a case, a lawyer must prove that negligence occurred on the part of the medical practitioner. In a case where early AMD was missed, an attorney may be able to present evidence that shows that the doctor missed the early symptoms of AMD in regular exams in order to receive compensation for his or her client.

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