Macular Degeneration (Age-Related Type) (cont.)
How is wet AMD treated?
Wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and
injections into the eye. None of these treatments is a cure for wet AMD. The
disease and loss of vision may progress despite treatment.
- Laser surgery. This procedure uses a laser to destroy the fragile, leaky
blood vessels. A high energy beam of light is aimed directly onto the new blood
vessels and destroys them, preventing further loss of vision. However, laser
treatment may also destroy some surrounding healthy tissue and some vision. Only
a small percentage of people with wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery.
Laser surgery is more effective if the leaky blood vessels have developed away
from the fovea, the central part of the macula. (See illustration at the
beginning of this document.) Laser surgery is performed in a doctor's office or
The risk of new blood vessels developing after laser treatment is high.
Repeated treatments may be necessary. In some cases, vision loss may progress
despite repeated treatments.
- Photodynamic therapy. A drug called verteporfin is injected into your arm. It
travels throughout the body, including the new blood vessels in your eye. The
drug tends to "stick" to the surface of new blood vessels. Next, a light is
shined into your eye for about 90 seconds. The light activates the drug. The
activated drug 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. 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
Photodynamic therapy is relatively painless. It takes about 20 minutes and
can be performed in a doctor's office.
Photodynamic therapy slows the rate of vision loss. It does not stop vision
loss or restore vision in eyes already damaged by advanced AMD. Treatment
results often are temporary. You may need to be treated again.
- Injections. Wet AMD can now be treated with new drugs that are injected into
the eye (anti-VEGF therapy). Abnormally high levels of a specific growth factor
occur in eyes with wet AMD and promote the growth of abnormal new blood vessels.
This drug treatment blocks the effects of the growth factor.
You will need multiple injections that may be given as often as monthly. The
eye is numbed before each injection. After the injection, you will remain in the
doctor's office for a while and your eye will be monitored. This drug treatment
can help slow down vision loss from AMD and in some cases improve sight.