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Ask an Expert about Macular Degeneration

Latest Questions and Answers
My mother has had wet age-related macular degeneration for about 3 years in one of her eyes. She lost the other eye due to glaucoma. She has been treated with Avastin and other drugs, but the disease seems to slowly get worse. Is there any treatment that can help her if Avastin does not work? [ 12/31/10 ]

Fortunately, other therapies are available if Avastin is not helpful in patients with wet age-related macular degeneration. Lucentis, a drug similar to Avastin, has demonstrated some success in certain patients not responding well to Avastin. Another medicine, VEGF-trap has shown promise in an ongoing clinical trial for the wet form of the disease. This drug has not yet been approved by the FDA, will but likely be approved in the near future. Several other drugs are at earlier stages of investigation as well.

I am 27 years old and I just had an eye exam. I was told that I had a score of .29 for my macular degeneration. What does this mean for me and how fast will my disease progress? I had an eye exam last year and this issue did not come up. [ 12/30/10 ]

Without knowing the specific score and test, one cannot give a definitive prognosis. However, several scales are used for macular degeneration and a score of less than 1 is very reassuring on all of them.  Your eye doctor can provide you with a specific answer to your question.

I had surgery for an epiretinal membrane in August of 2010, but I still have wavy vision. How long does it normally take to notice improvement after this type of surgery? Will I have problems with shortsightedness from this procedure? [ 12/29/10 ]

Your visual recovery after epiretinal membrane surgery will depend on several factors such as the extent of surgery, the thickness of the membrane, etc. In general, it can take 6 – 12 months for vision to recover after this type of surgery.

It is unlikely for someone to develop nearsightedness after epiretinal membrane surgery unless a technique called sclera buckling was used. Your eye physician will likely recommend a refraction (prescription check) after your vision has stabilized to maximize your vision. The refraction will check for any nearsightedness after the surgery has completely healed.

I am 27 years old and have suffered from macular degeneration in my left eye for the last 5 years. I am losing vision, but it is happening very slowly. Are there any medical advances that you can share with me? [ 12/28/10 ]

The treatments for visual loss due to macular degeneration depend on the specific kind of macular degeneration. The age of 27 is extremely young to develop age-related macular degeneration, the most common subtype in the United States currently. Several therapies are undergoing testing in clinical trials for the dry subtype of this eye disease, and one of these may eventually be beneficial for you. Therapies under investigation include fenretinide, alprostadil, copaxone, eculizumab, NT50, and many others. 

I have dry macular degeneration in both eyes and wanted to know if there are any studies showing that cannabis can help treat this eye disease. [ 12/27/10 ]

To my knowledge there is no concrete scientific evidence supporting any beneficial effect of cannabis or "medical marijuana" use and macular degeneration, particularly the dry form of the disease. While some groups have reported that smoking marijuana may lower levels of VEGF* (vascular endothelial growth factor), the potential side effects from smoking marijuana, which include alterations in blood pressure and possible chronic lung disease to name a few, likely counter any possible benefit. Additionally, if the marijuana leaves are smoked, the toxins released can be as potentially dangerous to the eyes as those released via tobacco smoke.

* Increased levels of VEGF are associated with stimulated blood vessel growth, which is a serious complication associated with wet macular degeneration.

How is biomedical science helping to find a cure for macular degeneration? [ 12/26/10 ]

There are numerous ways in which biomedical science is contributing to the search for a cure for macular degeneration.  Biomedical scientists have made considerable progress in elucidating some of the genes responsible for this eye disease, as well as discovering potential underlying mechanisms (down to the molecular level) that may contribute to the development and progression of macular degeneration.  This research helps to pinpoint which aspects or pathways appear to be most promising targets in terms of the development of new treatments.  Biomedical research studies, whether conducted in animal and cell culture models that mimic various aspects of the human disease, or via evaluation of post-mortem eye tissue, are critical, and lay the foundation for experimental treatments or clinical trials in human patients presently affected by the disease.

Are there any studies exploring the use of L-arginine therapy for macular degeneration? [ 12/25/10 ]

L-arginine is postulated to have a number of potential health benefits including improving cardiovascular health, boosting immune function, promoting wound healing and enhancing the production of a number of hormones.  Whether L-arginine may help with the treatment or prevention of macular degeneration has yet to be proven definitively.  After searching the available scientific databases, I did not find any recent studies exploring the use of L-arginine as a therapy for macular degeneration.

When will scientists try repairing macular degeneration with a patient's own retinal cells? Also can cord blood stem cells be used to treat macular degeneration? Isn't it expensive to save cord blood and what are the risks of freezing your own stem cells? [ 12/24/10 ]

A great deal of research is exploring various ways to improve or restore vision in patients with retinal diseases such as macular degeneration including:  the possible transplantation of tissue from healthy peripheral regions of the retina into the region of the macula (the area of the eye most affected by macular degeneration), the use of stem cells (embryonic or fetal stem cells, cord blood cells, and even a unique and rare population of what are known as “retinal stem cells” from the ciliary region of the patients own eye).  Preliminary studies using these techniques appear to be very promising; however, speculating how long it will be before any of them become routine clinical practice is very difficult to do. There has been significant progress; however, much remains to be done.   For more detailed information on stem cell treatments and options, please visit the patient education n website developed by the International Society for Stem Cell Research website.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional; it is not intended to constitute medical advice. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy. All medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. Also, although we make every effort to keep the medical information on our website updated, we cannot guarantee that the posted information reflects the most up-to-date research.

Some of the content in this section is adapted from other sources, which are clearly identified within each individual item of information.

Last Review: 04/29/13

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