Treatment for age-related macular degeneration

  • Dry-ARMD requires no treatment aside from taking in dietary supplements. The visual loss that this type causes is very gradual and slow because it can take five to ten years.
  • Wet-ARMD requires treatment to delay or stop the rapid rate of degeneration for visual loss. Some new treatments may reverse visual loss such as the following:
    • Photodynamic therapy. This was developed in the 1990s. Verteporfin is a drug injected into the vein in the arm of the patient. This drug then binds to the proteins of the newly formed blood vessels found in the macula. A light is shone into the infected eye for one minute. Verteporfin is a light sensitive drug and once it is activated, it destroys the abnormal blood vessels. This drug does not cause any damage to the seeing cells. This type of therapy is not suitable to all cases. This procedure depends mainly on the exact location of the abnormal blood vessels. This type of procedure does not restore vision but can delay the vision problem from getting worse over time. This treatment has to be repeated for a number of times to ensure that the abnormal blood vessels are constantly destroyed.
    • Drugs. Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor or simply anti-VEGF drugs have been developed recently. VEGF is a chemical involved in the creation of new blood vessels inside the macula to people with wet-ARMD. The drugs acts to block the action of VEGF to prevent the formation of more newly formed blood vessels.

These drugs include Lucentis, Macugen and Avastin. These drugs are directly injected to the vitreous of the eye. Injections are done every couple of weeks or so just to keep the effect of the drugs. The drugs work really well with wet-ARMD. For example, nine out of ten people who used the drug Lucentis had their vision improve. Today, these drugs are being marketed to precisely treat wet-ARMD before it gets worse. Although vision cannot be replaced once lost or damaged, recent studies have shown that some patients who take Macugen and Lucentis can restore a part of their vision after a long term affair of taking in these drugs.

    • Laser photo-coagulation. This is a procedure that requires a fine laser to be fired at the newly formed blood vessels in the eye. This prevents the condition from getting worse as it destroys the newly formed blood vessels. But this technique is suitable to a few cases. It requires that the exact location of the newly formed blood vessels are known because it can cause damage to the seeing cells or the rods and the cones.
    • Other treatments. Radiation therapy, other surgical techniques and use of other drugs are still being studied to this day to see what their effects on ARMD could be.  There is a surgical procedure that is being developed that involves the peripheral retina to be grafted to the dead macular area. The results have not yet been put forth but researches of this kind can help a lot to find a cure for related cases.
    • Proper diet, vitamin intake. Through the effects of the trial is only done through trial, diet and intake of dietary supplements may play a role in ARMD. According to the study, some patients who take in vitamins A, E, C, minerals such as copper and zinc, and beta-carotene can slow down or delay the rate of progression for ARMD.

The trials suggest that for those patients who want to delay the symptoms of ARMD, they should consider taking in these mentioned dietary supplements. According to the research, the following patients with ARMD are considered to have high risk and should try taking the supplements:

      • Mild ARMD that affects one or both eyes – prevent the symptoms for ARMD from getting worse.
      • Advanced ARMD just in one eye excluding the other eye – helps prevent the degeneration of the better eye.

Dietary supplements should only be taken by those patients who have been advised by their doctors. The reason behind this is that the marketed dietary supplements to the public do not hold the right doses for those with ARMD, unless the supplements come from the doctors directly. There is also concern that high doses for these vitamins might have a bad side effect to other people. Beta-carotene is said to increase a smoker's risk for developing lung cancer. Vitamin E on the other hand may increase the risk for people with diabetes and vascular diseases to have heart failure. Increased amount of zinc may result to kidney and bladder dysfunction. The patient has to consult his doctor first before taking anything, be it dietary supplements or drugs because instead of delaying the progression of ARMD, it might just get worse. Researchers are still on to the real score of taking in dietary supplements and its possible role in preventing ARMD.

    • Practical help. When a person feels or notices that his vision becomes blurry or poor, it is highly recommended that he turn to a clinic called low vision clinic. The personal at this clinic can provide very practical advice and help on how patients can keep up with deteriorating vision.
      • The patient may be advised to use magnifying lenses when reading or selecting books with larger prints or using a very bright lamp whenever doing something such as studying, writing or reading.
      • Using gadgets like talking watches and other gadgets which can aid in helping the patient see clearly.
      • To be registered as blind or partially blind because it may give the patient special considerations and benefits.

Important notice