Q: What Treatment Options Exist For Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
“I’d rather stick needles in my eyes”.
Long before Jack Nicholson uttered that memorable line in the 1983 movie Terms of Endearment, the idea of sticking a needle in the eye made most people uncomfortable if not downright squeamish. That same feeling still exists today.
Unfortunately, if your comprehensive eye care professional detects a vision-stealing condition like Age-Related Macular Degeneration, or “AMD”, the common treatment protocol may involve monthly injections directly into the eye. But an experimental drug nearing the human trial stage may change that one day.
AMD, as its name implies, occurs as we age and is the leading cause vision loss in those over 60. It happens when a small spot in the center of the retina, called the macula, is damaged. The macula is needed for sharp version but when damaged by AMD it commonly causes blurred central vision and other the visual distortions involving color and fine details. Peripheral (side) vision is usually not affected though as the disease advances the blurry central vision area can grow larger as it impacts the ability to see faces and interferes with driving, cooking, reading, writing, and other necessary daily activities.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration can be classified as either “Dry” or “Wet”.
Dry AMD is more common, usually progresses slowly over the years, and is more likely to affect both eyes. Its cause is unknown but, in addition to age, is likely due to a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. Although we can’t stop time or change our family history, genetics, or race (it’s more common in white people), we can control other dry AMD risk factors like smoking, obesity, and cardiovascular disease through lifestyle and dietary changes.
Taking Nutritional Supplements under a doctor’s supervision, such as those outlined in the National Eye Institute recent Age-Related Eye Disease study may decrease risk of vision loss in about 20% of patients with advanced AMD.
Unlike dry AMD, the wet (or neovascular) version has a known cause, is more likely to have a sudden onset and cause serious vision loss, and offers a treatment option, albeit a limited one. Wet AMD “develops when new blood vessels form and leak fluid and blood into the eye, causing swelling and damage”. The current treatment for wet AMD – – monthly injections into the eye—has limited effectiveness. The need to return monthly for eye injections is a costly and inconvenient reality for the many senior citizens afflicted with this condition. With the baby boomer generation already entering prime AMD onset age, alternative, more effective, and more convenient AMD treatment options are needed.
As if to answer the growing problem, an experimental drug known as AXT107 has shown promise in trials in rabbits and mice. The hope and expectation is that eye injections of AXT107 will have a “substantially longer effect then current treatment” and the patient will be able to go several months between injections instead of 4 to 6 weeks.
If you notice any changes in your central vision or any impairment to seeing fine details or color–particularly if you are over the age of 50 and have relevant AMD risk factors– you should see your eye doctor for a comprehensive exam. Early detection of AMD is the best defense against vision loss.
In addition to treating AMD, the doctors at Long Island Ophthalmic Concepts have over 50 years of combined experience in comprehensive eye care, including Cataract Surgery, Glaucoma, and Diabetic Eye Care. Call for an appointment at any of our three convenient Long Island, New York offices in Great Neck at 516-504-2020; in Huntington at 631-427-1690; or in Bellmore at 516-783-0300.