Understanding Pigmentary Maculopathy
Pigmentary maculopathy is one of the many conditions that affect the macula. The macula is the central area of the retina. It’s the light-sensitive part of the eye and is responsible for our central vision and the fine details of objects we see. Maculopathy can occur in different forms, depending on the cause. One of the known causes is the prolonged use of Elmiron, a prescription medication for interstitial cystitis.
Symptoms of Pigmentary Maculopathy
Maculopathy is painless. While it often affects both eyes, it can occur in only one eye. If it affects only one eye, you may not experience significant vision problems because the healthy eye compensates.
The symptoms may progress slowly, taking up to several years. The first symptoms include:
- Metamorphopsia – Image distortion makes linear objects appear round or curved and large items appear smaller.
- Partial vision loss – A dark spot appears on the macula, making you see objects partially. For example, when looking at a person, you may see the person’s ears but not facial expressions. Likewise, you may see a clock but not the time it shows.
These symptoms can progress quickly or gradually over several years. Patients should consult with an ophthalmologist as soon as possible when they notice such symptoms.
Effects of Pigmentary Maculopathy
Vision problems, such as those caused by pigmentary maculopathy, can have a severe impact on your life. Pigmentary maculopathy can affect your ability to perform and enjoy daily life activities. It can also take a toll on your professional life.
According to CDC researchers, poor vision is one of the major contributors to low income. Some of the common problems you can experience with pigmentary maculopathy include:
- Eye pain
- Loss of vision
- Difficulty adjusting to dim lighting
- Distorted vision
- Difficulty seeing objects close up
Coping With Pigmentary Maculopathy
We’ve seen that people suffering from macular disorder have difficulty performing daily tasks due to vision distortion, blind spots, and central vision loss. While this condition is potentially irreversible, there are ways to cope with it and lead a productive life.
Here are a few tips to help you live with pigmentary maculopathy:
- Invest in night lights.
- Ask your ophthalmologist to prescribe low-vision glasses to help you cope with vision loss.
- Mark floors with different bright-colored tape to help you see transitions in floor levels.
- Use magnifying glasses and bright lighting to read drug labels.
- Install grip bars in the bathroom or shower.
- Improve your reading ability with high-powered reading glasses and hand-held magnifiers.
- Turning your eyes or head sideways when looking at an object can help bypass blind spots.
- Be mindful of your physical and mental health, as vision loss can lead to anger, frustration, and depression.
- Consider learning new skills to help you live with low vision—including researching rehabilitation and resources to help you cope with the condition.
Elmiron and Pigmentary Maculopathy
A series of studies and case reports have linked long-term Elmiron® exposure to pigmentary maculopathy. Elmiron (or pentosan polysulfate sodium) is a prescription drug used to treat interstitial cystitis (IC). The drug received FDA approval in 1996 and is the only FDA-approved oral treatment for IC to date.
IC is a chronic condition associated with pain or discomfort in the bladder and pelvis area. It affects at least 1 million people in the United States, predominantly women. In 2019, a specialist at the Atlanta-based Emory Eye Center reported that the past four years had seen 10 patients with pigmentary maculopathy but that eye center staff couldn’t identify the cause.
The only common feature in the patients’ medical history was the long-term use of Elmiron. Researchers also noted that susceptibility to Elmiron-induced pigmentary maculopathy tends to increase the more the patient uses the medication. Patients found with the condition had been using 200 to 400mg of Elmiron dose per day for an average of 15 to 17 years. Elmiron-related maculopathy is not limited to older individuals; one of the patients diagnosed at the Emory Eye Center was only 23 years old.
Jansen, the manufacturer of Elmiron, faces a series of lawsuits by patients struggling with this drug’s irreversible effects. If you or a loved one has developed vision problems due to Elmiron medication, you might want to consider seeking the help of an attorney to inquire about filing an Elmiron lawsuit.