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Treatments for Age-Related Macular Degeneration

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Dr. Guy Eakin

In this audio presentation, Dr. Guy Eakin talks about the two forms of age-related macular degeneration and the treatments that are currently available. This presentation is part 3 of a 6 part series on macular degeneration.

  • Dr. Guy Eakin: Hello! I am Dr. Guy Eakin. Today, I am going to talk about the treatments that are currently available for age related macular degeneration or AMD. There are two types of macular degeneration, the more common dry form, which affects 90% of people living with the disease and a more serious wet form.

    The dry form may worsen into the wet form or it may not for reasons that are not fully known. In some cases, the wet form may arise without a person ever having had the dry form.

    Caught early, it's possible to reduce the risk of progressing from the dry to the more severe wet stage of the disease. There are a few studies that have found that taking a specific high dose formula of antioxidant vitamins and zinc at certain stages of the disease may delay or prevent further vision loss.

    That formula called AREDS is recommended for those with intermediate AMD in one or both eyes and it's also recommended for those with advanced AMD in only one eye, whether that be wet or dry form of the disease.

    Unfortunately, this treatment hasn't shown any effect on earlier stage AMD. In the earlier phase, the best thing for patients to do is visit the doctor regularly to monitor the disease and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

    There are some clinical trials underway to test new treatments for dry AMD. You may wish to talk to your eye care provider about whether these experimental treatments would be appropriate for your condition.

    All over many treatments that I am going to discuss are for AMD's wet form only. While wet AMD can not be cured, there are ways of slowing the disease. Treatments concentrate on stopping the fluid leakage. So laser surgery and injections into the arm or eye have been found to delay the growth of fragile and often leaky new blood vessels that can cause the vision loss.

    The main treatments for wet AMD introduce one or four medicines into the eye through an ongoing series of injections several weeks apart. So the drugs that are used in the United States are Avastin, Eylea, Lucentis or Macugen. These drugs block the protein that promotes growth of those leaky blood vessels.

    The procedure is simple; eye doctor numbs the outside of the eye to limit discomfort before injecting the drug into the eye. There are two other treatments for wet AMD that are less commonly used.

    Photodynamic therapy is used for a rare form of AMD. It involves some injection and this time into the arm that of a drug that is absorbed by the leaking blood vessels in the eye. A laser is then directed into the eye for about a minute and this activates the drug, which then destroys the weak blood vessels but spares the healthy ones and therefore it slows the rate of vision loss.

    More rarely laser photocoagulation surgery may also be considered. This uses laser light to burn and seal leaking vessels.

    No treatment will work for everyone in the same way, so patients and doctors should discuss the patient specific situation and preferences as well as potential side-effects before deciding on a course of treatment.

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