Macular Degeneration Treatment Breakthroughs
by Isobel Washington
Macular degeneration is an eye condition characterized by the deterioration of the macula, which is the central "lens-like" part of the eye's retina responsible for sharp central vision. Affecting central vision and often leading to vision loss, macular degeneration has had limited treatment options. Recently, there have been some breakthroughs to help patients retain vision.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness among Americans age 65 and older, according to AllAboutVision.com. Vision loss from this condition is a growing problem, since this age demographic represents an increasingly larger percentage of the U. S. population.
Treatments for macular degeneration work to preserve vision ability at the time of treatment, and slow the progression of the disease (it's a progressive disease that affects vision over time). Treatment cannot restore vision that is already lost through the disease. There is no cure or treatment to stop the progression of macular degeneration, there are ways to preserve and prolong current vision.
Lucentis and Macugen are FDA-approved ocular injection treatments, and are highly effective for preserving vision and inhibiting macular degeneration symptoms, according to AllAboutVision.com. A 2005 study on Lucentis demonstrated success rate of 95 percent for improving and sustaining vision in macular degeneration patients.
Laser technology is now used to destroy the abnormal, leaky blood vessels that cause vision loss in macular degeneration patients. The National Eye Institute points out, however, that while this treatment may be effective for preventing vision loss, it is also comes with the risk of destroying healthy tissue that surrounds the treatment area.
This method uses special light treatment to activate an injected drug, verteporfin, in the blood vessels, so that it destroys the new, abnormal blood vessels being hyper-produced in the eye (those that cause vision impairment or loss). The National Eye Institute reports that this light-activation method slows vision loss, but doesn't stop it.
Investigational treatments for macular degeneration, in various stages of research and FDA clinical studies, include Avastin, a cancer treatment drug. As of 2009, the National Eye Institute reports that no available treatment provides a cure for macular degeneration, and that vision loss may result, despite treatment.