Treatments for Macular Degeneration
If you are diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), you need to see your eye doctor regularly to determine how quickly your disease is progressing. Your doctor can:
- Tell you how to control risk factors for AMD
- Show you how to use the Amsler grid, a simple method by which you can regularly monitor and detect any subtle changes in your vision on your own
At the first sign of any visual changes—no matter how small they may seem—you should make an appointment with your eye care provider.
Dry Macular Degeneration Care
Once dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) reaches the advanced stage, there is no form of treatment at present to prevent further vision loss. However, there are intervention measures that could delay and possibly prevent intermediate AMD from progressing to the advanced stage in which vision loss occurs.
The National Eye Institute’s Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found that the progression of AMD could be delayed or prevented by taking nutritional supplements with a specific high-dose formulation of antioxidants (vitamins C and E and betacarotene), zinc, and copper. A follow-up trial (AREDS2) was completed in May 2013. In that study, researchers found that the addition of omega-3 fatty acids to the supplements did not improve the formula’s success. The antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin proved safer than beta-carotene, which increases the risk of lung cancer for smokers or ex-smokers.
The AREDS2 recommendation for the supplement formula is:
- 500 mg of vitamin C
- 400 IUs of vitamin E
- 10 mg of lutein
- 2 mg of zeaxanthin
- 80 mg of zinc
- 2 mg of copper
It’s important to find the right vitamins, since many are marketed for eye health but only a few have formulas that have proven effective.
Implantable Miniature Telescope
Approved by the FDA in 2010, the CentraSight® implantable miniature telescope (IMT) may help those with end-stage AMD gain back some vision. The tiny telescope is inserted into one eye, which then provides central vision while the other eye provides peripheral vision.
The telescope projects images over healthy areas of the retina. The IMT can usually be implanted by an eye surgeon during an outpatient surgical visit. After surgery, patients must participate in a structured vision rehabilitation program to learn how to perform daily activities using the device.
Treatments for Wet Macular Degeneration
Wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can be treated with injections of angiogenesis inhibitors into the eye, with photodynamic therapy, or with laser surgery. None of these treatments will cure wet AMD, but each may slow the rate of vision decline or stop further vision loss. However, the disease and loss of vision may also progress despite treatment. Options should be discussed with a doctor. Click on a treatment option below to learn more.
Beovu is also prescribed as an injection to be given in the vitreous of the eye after it has been numbed. It is the only anti-VEGF agent recommended up to three-month dosing intervals in eligible patients. The treatment with other anti-VEGF agents is typically given at every 4-6 weeks frequency.
After numbing the eye, the doctor injects Eylea into the clear, jelly-like substance (the vitreous) that fills the eye from the lens back to the retina and then monitors the patient’s progress. After an initial three-month period of injections every four weeks, Eylea can be administered every eight weeks. In comparison, treatments with the other angiogenesis inhibitors are normally given every four weeks (Lucentis and Avastin) or every six weeks (Macugen). The actual number of injections needed is determined by the physician, taking the individual patient’s disease status and response to treatment into consideration.
Lucentis is also injected into the vitreous portion of the eye after it has been numbed. Injections are given regularly over a period of time. The frequency and actual number of injections needed are determined by the physician and the individual patient’s disease status and response to treatment.
Findings from international studies announced in 2012 indicate that an injection every four weeks may be optimal. The most commonly reported side effects of Lucentis include hemorrhage of the conjunctiva, floaters, eye pain, increased eye pressure, and inflammation of the eye. Rare but serious adverse events include endophthalmitis, retinal detachment, retinal tear, increased eye pressure, and traumatic cataract.
Macugen is also injected into the vitreous portion of the eye that has been numbed. It is usually administered every six weeks. The actual number of injections needed is determined by the physician, taking the individual patient’s disease status and response to treatment into consideration. Macugen is still available for treatment of wet AMD, but is not used as often as other injectable angiogenesis inhibitors. Common side effects of Macugen include inflammation of the eye, blurred vision, other changes in vision, cataracts, bleeding in the eye, swelling of the eye, eye discharge, irritation or discomfort of the eye, and “spots” in vision. Injection can also make the eye susceptible to infection for a period of time.
Avastin is an FDA-approved cancer therapy drug manufactured by the same company that makes Lucentis. Avastin has been used by doctors as an off-label treatment for AMD. Both drugs are similarly administered. However, Avastin is much less expensive, and many doctors believe these drugs are equally effective against macular degeneration. The National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health conducted clinical trials (Comparison of Treatments Trials, or CATT) to study the relative efficacy and safety of Avastin and Lucentis.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is most effective in a subtype of wet AMD called predominantly classic subfoveal AMD, in which blood vessel growth and leakage in the fovea—the small region in the center of the macula—are well defined. It should be noted that PDT is rarely used now that there are drugs (EYLEA, Lucentis, Macugen, and Avastin) that specifically block the vessel-promoting VEGF protein. During the PDT procedure, a drug called Visudyne® is injected into the arm. The drug courses through the body and is absorbed by the fragile, leaking blood vessels in the eye.
Because Visudyne is activated by light, the doctor directs a low-intensity laser at the retina for a little over a minute. This activates the Visudyne, allowing it to destroy the abnormal vessels. One treatment normally takes about twenty minutes and is relatively painless. The most common side effects of PDT include headache, injection site reaction, and blurred or reduced vision. Because the drug is activated by light, it is important to avoid exposing eyes or any part of the skin to sunlight or bright indoor light for up to five days after treatment. PDT may help to stabilize vision, but it will not restore lost vision.
Laser photocoagulation surgery was the first treatment used for wet AMD, but it is only an option for a small number of patients. During the outpatient procedure, the eye is numbed, and a high-energy laser heats, seals, and destroys abnormal leaky blood vessels. This can potentially prevent further vision loss, but it results in a permanent blind spot due to scarring. Some patients experience mild pain during and/or shortly after the procedure. When successful, laser surgery is done once. However, if new blood vessels grow, surgery may have to be repeated.
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