Treating Age-Related Macular Degeneration
There is no cure for macular degeneration. Treatment, however, may prevent some vision loss and slow the progression of macular degeneration. Several options are available.
Dry Macular Degeneration Treatment
- Macular Degeneration Vitamins: Macular Degeneration Vitamins such as vitamins C, E, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc have been shown to decrease the risk of vision loss in patients with intermediate to advanced dry macular degeneration. The Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2) showed that people with the intermediate stage of dry macular degeneration could reduce their risk of progressing to advanced dry macular degeneration by about 25% by taking a special high-dose formula of the supplements, sold without a prescription. It is important to note that high-dose vitamins, even when sold without a prescription, may present a risk for some people. Smokers taking beta-carotene may increase their risk of lung cancer, and AREDS 2 concluded that lutein and zeaxanthin were at least as beneficial, and safer, than beta-carotene.
Wet Macular Degeneration Treatments
- Laser therapy: High-energy laser light is used to destroy actively growing abnormal blood vessels that occur in macular degeneration. It has the unfortunate effect of damaging the central retina and causing loss of vision, though it limits that loss. Since the advent of injectable medications, this treatment has largely been abdicated.
- Photodynamic laser therapy: A 2-step treatment in which a light-sensitive drug is used to close the abnormal blood vessels. The doctor injects the drug into an arm or hand vein. It is absorbed by abnormal blood vessels in your eye. The doctor then uses a cold laser to activate the drug in your eye, destroying the abnormal blood vessels. Since the advent of injectable medications, this treatment has largely been abdicated.
- Anti-VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) Therapy: Examples include Avastin, Lucentis and Eyelea. This widely used therapy works by blocking a key signal that causes abnormal vessels under the macula to grow and leak. It has the downside of requiring repeated injections of medication into the eye, as often as monthly.
Investigational Wet Macular Degeneration Treatments
- Corticosteroid therapy: A corticosteroid derivative is being studied as a potential treatment option for some types of wet AMD patients
- Additional VEGF Therapies: There are additional drugs under investigation that are designed to block the key signal that causes abnormal vessels under your macula to grow and leak.
Managing Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Only your doctor can determine the right treatment for you. In addition to medical treatment, your doctor may ask you to help self-manage your macular degeneration in the following ways:
- Regular eye exams can monitor the course of macular degeneration and screen for other problems. Early detection of changes provides earlier treatment and better results
- Self-vision testing can detect sudden vision changes that may be a sign of abnormal blood vessel growth or leakage. An Amsler grid test can reveal signs of degeneration such as blurred vision, wavy vision lines, or blank spots. Self-testing does not replace regular eye checkups with your doctor. If you notice any changes to your vision, immediately report them to your ophthalmologist. If you don't have an ophthalmologist, you can find one near you with the Eye Doctor Finder
- Vision aids such as magnifiers and electronic magnifiers can help with tasks that require detailed vision. Large-face clocks and appliances, as well as large print books, can help people continue to read and take care of themselves. It may also be helpful to visit a low-vision specialist, who can prescribe vision devices and train you to use them in everyday situations. To find out information about low-vision specialist, visit https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8585-low-vision. Vision aids may not be appropriate for all patients and do not replace regular eye exams to maintain good eye health. Be sure to consult with your eye doctor to determine if a vision aid is right for you.