Age-Related Macular Degeneration Drops
by a Third
March 23, 2011
Q. Is there any positive news on the horizon about this disease? What are ways that he can cope with this dreaded condition?
There is some good news just out. The percentage of people with
age-related macular degeneration has dropped by a third in the past 15 years.
The overall prevalence of AMD among adults age 40 and older was an
estimated 6.5 percent, which represented a decrease from the 9.4 percent
reported in a 1988 to 1994 survey. The estimated prevalence of late (more
advanced) AMD was 0.8 percent
Macular degeneration, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a
leading cause of vision loss in many 60 and older. It is a disease that
destroys sharp, central vision, which is needed to see objects clearly and to
complete such important tasks as reading and driving.
“The decreasing prevalence of AMD may reflect recent change in the
frequency of smoking and other exposures such as diet, physical activity and
blood pressure associated with AMD,” according to the study.
This news does bode well for future seniors who can alter their
lifestyle in an effort to help prevent this disease.
Check with your Optician or GP to determine the best way to manage your
How is wet AMD treated?
Wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery,
photodynamic therapy, and injections into the eye. None of these treatments is
a cure for wet AMD. The disease and loss of vision may progress despite
1. Laser surgery. This procedure uses a laser to destroy the
fragile, leaky blood vessels. A high energy beam of light is aimed directly
onto the new blood vessels and destroys them, preventing further loss of
vision. However, laser treatment may also destroy some surrounding healthy tissue
and some vision. Only a small percentage of people with wet AMD can be treated
with laser surgery. Laser surgery is more effective if the leaky blood vessels
have developed away from the fovea, the central part of the macula. (See
illustration at the beginning of this document.) Laser surgery is performed in
a doctor’s office or eye clinic.
The risk of new blood vessels developing after laser treatment is high.
Repeated treatments may be necessary. In some cases, vision loss may progress
despite repeated treatments.
2. Photodynamic therapy. A drug called verteporfin is injected into
your arm. It travels throughout the body, including the new blood vessels in
your eye. The drug tends to “stick” to the surface of new blood
vessels. Next, a light is shined into your eye for about 90 seconds. The light
activates the drug. The activated drug destroys the new blood vessels and leads
to a slower rate of vision decline. Unlike laser surgery, this drug does not
destroy surrounding healthy tissue. Because the drug is activated by light, you
must avoid exposing your skin or eyes to direct sunlight or bright indoor light
for five days after treatment.
Photodynamic therapy is relatively painless. It takes about 20 minutes and can
be performed in a doctor’s office.
Photodynamic therapy slows the rate of vision loss. It does not stop vision
loss or restore vision in eyes already damaged by advanced AMD. Treatment
results often are temporary. You may need to be treated again.
Wet AMD can now be treated with new drugs that are injected into the eye
(anti-VEGF therapy). Abnormally high levels of a specific growth factor occur
in eyes with wet AMD and promote the growth of abnormal new blood vessels. This
drug treatment blocks the effects of the growth factor.
You will need multiple injections that may be given as often as monthly. The
eye is numbed before each injection. After the injection, you will remain in
the doctor’s office for a while and your eye will be monitored. This drug
treatment can help slow down vision loss from AMD and in some cases improve
How is dry AMD treated?
Once dry AMD reaches the advanced stage, no form of treatment can
prevent vision loss. However, treatment can delay and possibly prevent
intermediate AMD from progressing to the advanced stage, in which vision loss
The National Eye Institute’s Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS)
found that taking a specific high-dose formulation of antioxidants and zinc
significantly reduces the risk of advanced AMD and its associated vision loss.
Slowing AMD’s progression from the intermediate stage to the advanced stage
will save the vision of many people.