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Ask an Expert about Macular Degeneration

Latest Questions and Answers
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.


My husband and I, who are 65 years old, were each diagnosed with the PPD variant of wet age-related macular degeneration in one eye within 3 months of each other.  We have received Lucentis injections for a year but are resistant to it. Is anyone doing research concerning the environmental causes of this disease? [ 12/23/10 ]

Age-related macular degeneration is known to be a multi-factorial disease meaning that many factors are thought to contribute to its development and progression.  These factors include: age, genetics, gender, race/ethnicity, and environmental factors to name a few.  There are indeed projects exploring environmental causes of the disease.  Studies conducted in different populations of people or specific geographical regions also provide much insight regarding the relative contribution of different environments in the pathogenesis of the disease.  If you visit the National Institute of Health's PubMed database and search macular degeneration and environmental factors, you will see an extensive list of scientific publications regarding this topic, attesting to the abundance of scientific efforts devoted to this line of research.


I am a college student working on an extended project concerning macular degeneration and the various treatments for the wet and dry forms of the disease. I was wondering if you could send me or direct me to any college level scientific or biological information that can help me with this project other than the information presented on your website. [ 12/22/10 ]

An excellent source for reliable scientific or biological information regarding macular degeneration and its treatment is the National Institutes of Health PubMed database. There you can find and read reviews on the disease and also read about recent scientific and/or clinical studies on the disease.  You can tailor the keywords in the “search” bar to match the topics you are most interested in.  The National Eye Institute website also provides a wealth of information regarding the disease.


A few years ago I was diagnosed with a mild dry macular degeneration in my right eye. I have nearly normal vision in that eye and completely normal vision in the left eye. I have been taking a special eye vitamin with lutein. During my visits to the eye doctor every 6 months, the condition of the right eye has been the same; however, at a recent visit, based on a dye test and scanning, I was told that there is a tiny blood vessel leak. Can the leak be related to the dry form of macular degeneration? What action is needed on my part? Is injection therapy necessary or can I continue only with just taking eye vitamins for now? [ 12/21/10 ]

A leak of fluid on the dye test and on OCT scanning can often signify the conversion to wet macular degeneration. A very tiny area of leakage or fluid on OCT may be hard to interpret, but will likely also get larger with time if it truly represents the wet form of the disease. If you have wet macular degeneration, you will need to discuss the risk and benefits of injection therapy. As long as you have at least one eye with dry macular degeneration, eye vitamins will be helpful in slowing the progression to wet macular degeneration.  Your eye doctor, who has examined your eyes and has access to the results of your medical tests, can talk with you in more detail about your treatment options.


I am a 62-year-old female who has wet macular degeneration. My only symptom is slight distortion of vertical lines; I see no blind spot in central vision. Avastin injections have been recommended. Can I wait to start this invasive treatment? [ 12/20/10 ]

Without treatment, macular degeneration almost always leads to severe loss of central vision. While you can wait to start treatment, you may suffer irreversible visual loss in the interim. You are fortunate to have caught the disease at such an early stage. Please discuss with your retina specialist the risks, benefits, and alternatives to Avastin so that you can fully understand your treatment options.


I am a 74-year-old male with diabetes, but I am in good health otherwise. I have had macular degeneration in my left eye now for 7 years. In my good eye, my doctor has given me at least 10 Avastin injections to stop bleeding behind the eye. Now, I can see pretty well except at night; I suffer from low light vision, can't drive and mostly I am in need of a flashlight to see objects in the house (such as dials on appliances) even during the day. My doctor shrugs his shoulders when I ask him if there is anything else he can do to improve my vision. Is there any help out there for me? [ 12/18/10 ]

Currently no medicines are available to specifically improve low light vision in patients with macular degeneration. You may benefit from an evaluation by a low vision specialist, to help maximize your current night vision and help with strategies to maximize your function during the day as well. Trials are ongoing for medicines to treat dry macular degeneration, and these may one day help with some of the visual symptoms that you are experiencing.


I am 96 years old and have wet macular degeneration in both eyes. I was seeing quite well until I lost my balance and fell in the bathroom. I hit the side of my tub and fractured my rib. The doctor gave me some anti-inflammatory pills to take for 3 days. My eye sight has become very bad all of a sudden, and wanted to know if you think that the shock of falling and hurting my rib cage could have caused the change in vision? [ 12/16/10 ]

Your eye sight worsening could be caused by a variety of reasons. Trauma, more commonly to the head, can cause a number of eye problems such as retinal detachment, bleeding within the eye, or inflammation within the eye. An ophthalmologist can diagnose all of the above conditions, as well as other diseases not related to your fall that may have coincidentally occurred at the same time as the worsening of your wet macular degeneration. Significant injury to the chest can also cause a condition known at Purtscher's retinopathy, which can cause decreased vision as well.


What good alternative medicine or natural products can help with macular degeneration? [ 12/15/10 ]

Strong evidence to support alterative medicines or natural products does not currently exist. Smoking cessation and certain nutrients are the only two modifiable behaviors that have definitely been shown to slow down the progression of macular degeneration. If you are not already taking vitamin supplementation, please speak to your eye physician about taking a supplement of zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene. Do not start any vitamin supplementation without speaking to your doctor, as many of these vitamins can cause significant side effects. Omega 3 fatty acids, lutein, and zeaxanthin may be beneficial as well, and are currently undergoing evaluation in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2).


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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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