Many treatments can help slow down vision loss from age-related macular degeneration and in some cases can even improve sight.

Treatment of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

How is Wet AMD treated?

Wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and injections into the eye. Unfortunately, none of these treatments is a cure for wet AMD, as the disease and loss of vision may progress despite these interventions.

Injections: Retina specialists can now treat wet AMD with the drugs Avastin and Lucentis, which they inject into the eye (anti-VEGF therapy). Your particular situation will determine which drug your Retina Vitreous Associates specialist uses. Eyes with wet AMD show abnormally high levels of a specific growth factor that promotes the growth of abnormal new blood vessels. This drug treatment blocks the effects of the growth factor. You will need multiple injections as often as once a month. The doctor numbs the eye before each injection, and after the procedure, you will remain in the doctor's office while your eye care professional monitors your eye. This treatment can help slow down vision loss from AMD and in some cases can even improve sight.

Laser surgery: Only a small percentage of people with wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery. Your retina specialist aims a high-energy beam of light directly at the new fragile, leaky blood vessels and destroys them, preventing further loss of vision. However, laser treatment may also destroy some surrounding healthy tissue and some vision. And the risk of developing new blood vessels after treatment is high, necessitating repeated treatments. Laser surgery is most effective when the leaky blood vessels have developed away from the fovea, the central part of the macula.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT): Your retina specialist injects a drug called verteporfin into your arm. It travels throughout the body, including the new, leaky blood vessels in your eye. The drug tends to "stick" to the surface of new blood vessels. Next, the doctor shines a light into your eye for about 90 seconds. The light activates the drug, which destroys the new blood vessels and leads to a slower rate of vision decline. Unlike laser surgery, this drug does not destroy surrounding healthy tissue. But because the drug is activated by light, you must avoid exposing your skin or eyes to direct sunlight or bright indoor light for five days after treatment. The results of photodynamic therapy, a relatively painless 20-minute procedure, are often temporary, and you may need repeat treatments.

How is Dry AMD treated?

Unfortunately, at this time there is no single proven treatment for the dry form of macular degeneration. However, a large scientific study has shown that antioxidant vitamins and zinc may reduce the impact of macular degeneration in some people by slowing its progression toward more advanced stages (wet AMD).

Nutritional supplements: The study found that people at risk for developing advanced (wet) AMD reduced their risk by about 25% when they took a high-dose combination of Vitamin C (500 mg); Vitamin E (400 iu); beta carotene (15 mg); zinc (80 mg); and copper (2 mg). Another large study in women found a benefit from taking folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. Supplements do not appear useful for people with no AMD or who are in the very early stages of the disease. Always check with your physician before self-treating with any nutritional supplements.