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Ask an Expert about Macular Degeneration

Latest Questions and Answers
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).


How long has macular degeneration been around? [ 11/27/10 ]

Doctors and researchers have known about macular degeneration for a long time. If you check the National Institutes of Health record of publications, the first published case-reports on the disease appeared in 1904, and the number of published reports increased drastically starting in the 1920s. Symptoms and characteristics of age-related macular degeneration such as drusen deposits were described as early as 1854 by Franciscus Donders; however, I do not think the disease had been formally named as "age-related macular degeneration" at that time. At that time the disease was more commonly referred to as "senile" macular degeneration because physicians noted that it was an eye condition that appeared to predominantly affect elderly or aged individuals and so chose to use the term "senile" to describe the age-related eye condition that they were seeing.

Though it may not have always been referred to specifically as "age-related macular degeneration," scientists have been aware of this sight-threatening eye disease for more than a century. Though there is still no cure for the disease, tremendous advancements have been made in understanding its risk factors, and many novel therapies have been developed which aid in slowing or preventing its progression.


Has anyone found evidence of a link between dry macular degeneration and Sjögren's syndrome or iron deficiency anemia? [ 11/27/10 ]

No definitive link has been established between dry age related macular degeneration (ARMD) and Sjögren's syndrome. However, smoking and nutrition are increasingly linked to ARMD by a growing body of research as having an impact on dry ARMD. Smoking ceasation can decrease the chance that you will convert to the wet form of ARMD, and a diet high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids may also be helpful. Iron levels may play a role in ARMD as well, but this relationship is from excessively high levels of iron rather than iron deficiency.


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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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