Macular Degeneration - Treatment for Wet Macular Degeneration

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If you've been diagnosed with wet macular degeneration, what types of treatment have you received?

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What is the treatment for wet macular degeneration?

Wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and injections into the eye. None of these treatments is a permanent cure for wet AMD. The disease and loss of vision may progress despite treatment.

Laser surgery is used to destroy the fragile, leaky blood vessels. A high energy beam of light is aimed directly onto the new blood vessels to eradicate them, preventing further loss of vision. However, laser treatment may also destroy some surrounding healthy tissue and some vision. Because of this, only eyes with new vessels away from the exact center of the vision can be treated. This represents only a small proportion of patients with AMD. Laser surgery is only effective in halting or slowing visual loss if the leaky blood vessels have developed away from the fovea, the central part of the macula. Even in treated cases, the risk of new blood vessels recurring after treatment is significant and further or other treatment may be necessary.

Photodynamic therapy uses a drug called verteporfin (Visudyne) being injected into a vein of the arm. A light is then directed into the eye to activate the drug adhering to the blood vessels in the eye. The activated drug destroys the new blood vessels and leads to a slower rate of vision decline. Photodynamic therapy may slow 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. Retreatment may be necessary.

Within the last seven years, injections into the eye with drugs specifically developed to stop the growth of new blood vessels have revolutionized the treatment of wet macular degeneration. We have learned that a specific chemical called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is necessary for the new blood vessels to grow under the retina. Drugs that counter VEGF (anti-VEGF pharmacotherapy) can be injected into the eye to arrest development of new blood vessels and sometimes cause them to regress. These drugs are injected in the ophthalmologist's office and may need to be given as frequently as monthly. Careful observation of the eye on a monthly basis to determine the drug effect is necessary. With this treatment, visual loss can often be halted or slowed and some patients will even experience some improvement of vision. Newer drugs currently under review may need to be given less frequently. Photodynamic therapy and laser ablation have been largely, if not completely, abandoned in faver of VEGF inhibitors. New and more effective anti-VEGF medicines are on and approaching the market. If diagnosed and treated early, the patient's chances of a better outcome are improved.

In patients with far advanced macular degeneration on both eyes, surgery to implant a telescopic lens in one eye is an option. The telescope implant, which surgically replaces the eye's natural lens, magnifies images while reducing the field of vision (peripheral vision). The telescopic lens implant may improve both distance and close-up central vision.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Inger, 75 or over Female (Caregiver) Published: April 04

My aunt, who is 89, has had macular degeneration for three years. When she visits her retina specialist, she is examined each time and has been given shots in each eye a number of times. She hasn't had them in a few months. The doctor says we will just continue to watch her eyes and go from there. She has a real problem with tunnel vision and she gets very depressed by this. She also has heart problems. We've thought about having her cataracts removed to see if this will improve her vision.

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Comment from: crim, 75 or over Female (Patient) Published: March 21

I have been having the shots monthly in one eye for macular degeneration, for 5 months. The last few times I have felt a prick when the shot goes in. I had not felt it originally. Last time it was really a poke.

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