Treatments for Macular Degeneration (AMD)
While there is currently no cure for this sight-threatening disease, a number of promising treatments for macular degeneration are available. The stage and progression of your disease largely determine whether you are a candidate for these revolutionary therapies.
In the meantime, if you have suffered vision loss from macular degeneration, we urge you to contact an IALVS eye doctor near you for personalized low vision rehabilitation and devices. There is a wide range of low vision aids – and all IALVS eye doctors are trained and experienced in optimizing remaining eyesight for people who have low vision as a result of macular degeneration.
Treating early dry AMD
In general, nutrition therapy is the mainstay of treatment for dry macular degeneration. In order to strengthen the cells of your macula, it’s essential to eat healthy foods that are high in antioxidants. If your AMD has advanced but is still dry, eye health supplements may be prescribed. An extensive study found that the following combination of vitamins and minerals can boost the healthy pigments in your eye and support the cell structure of your macula, thereby slowing the progression of dry AMD:
- Vitamin C (500 mg)
- Vitamin E (400 IU)
- Lutein (10 mg)
- Zeaxanthin (2 mg)
- Zinc (80 mg)
- Copper (2 mg)
Treating Wet AMD
Until recent years, laser photocoagulation was administered as the only effective treatment for wet macular degeneration. This therapy involves sealing the leaky blood vessels of wet AMD with a laser, and it usually reduces the risk of serious vision loss.
After laser photocoagulation, photodynamic therapy (PDT) has always been the next step in treating wet AMD. To perform this therapy, a drug is injected via IV into the patient’s arm. Then, a non-thermal laser light is shone into the patient’s eye, activating the drug. This activation leads to a selective destruction of the unhealthy leaking blood vessels.
As a result of this laser and PDT treatment, the leaky vessels are sealed off and the healthy ones are left intact. Unfortunately, even when this therapy is successful, leaking blood vessels may reoccur – necessitating multiple treatments.
So while the therapy can help slow the rate of vision loss and preserve a greater amount of sight - it is not a cure, may need to be repeated, and cannot restore any vision that was already lost.
In response to the limitations of laser treatments for macular degeneration, research is ongoing to find a breakthrough therapy that will preserve vision for a longer time period without needing to perform repeat laser surgeries. Anti-VEGF is another type of therapy for wet AMD, and it is currently the most popular clinical treatment.
With anti-VEGF therapy, a chemical is injected into the eye to prevent the growth of new, weak and abnormal blood vessels in the eye tissue behind the retina. These unhealthy blood vessels leak lipids, serum, and blood into the retina, leading to scarring and the destruction of macular cells – resulting ultimately in the loss of central vision.
To inject these shots, the eye is anesthetized so the patient does not feel any pain. The actual procedure is relatively short, taking only about 15 minutes total.
A high success rate has been seen from the use of anti-VEGF injections, including a slower progression of the disease and some minor benefits to existing vision. Like all medical treatments though, anti-VEGF therapy comes with possible risks and side effects. Every individual must discuss the pros and cons, as well as the suitability of this treatment with their own eye doctor.
Finding the right low vision assistance and treatment for macular degeneration
At the very beginning of AMD, you may not notice any changes to your vision. Yet, as macular degeneration develops, a loss of visual acuity in your central field of vision will typically occur. If wet AMD is diagnosed, immediate treatment is necessary in order to save any remaining vision. It is critical to visit your eye doctor regularly for comprehensive eye exams that monitor your AMD and provide detailed information for designing the best customized treatment plan.
In the event that you have suffered vision loss, our IALVS eye doctors can help provide low vision assistance and visual support through a variety of aids and strategies to maximize your remaining sight. We aim to promote visual independence, even after you have experienced vision loss caused by macular degeneration.