Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults, affecting more than 10 percent of those over the age of 75. There are two types of AMD: dry (atrophic) and wet (exudative/neovascular). Today, Dr. Kanoff will address wet AMD.
With the wet type of AMD, blood vessels break through the macula, causing bleeding and swelling that leads to the loss of central vision. Wet AMD progresses very rapidly and vision loss is severe.
“Ten percent of dry AMD cases will convert to the wet form. And, individuals with high blood pressure are at higher risk,” Dr. Kanoff stated.
He then explained how ForeseeHome is an at-home monitoring device that can help catch any progression from dry to wet AMD. You take a daily test to check for tiny changes in your vision. The system then sends monthly reports to your doctor’s office.
“Currently, the most effective clinical treatment for wet AMD is anti-VEGF therapy,” said Dr. Kanoff. “This involves a periodic eye injection of a chemical called an anti-VEGF, which hinders the growth of new blood vessels behind the retina and keeps it free of blood leakage. Studies show high rates of success for maintaining a patient’s current level of vision and that it may even improve vision.”
He said in select cases, Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) can be added as a second-line treatment or supplement to injections.
“PDT involves injecting a light-sensitive drug into your arm. Then a cold laser directed into the eye activates the medicine and seals off the abnormal blood vessels,” Dr. Kanoff explained.
However, this treatment isn’t a cure and doesn’t restore vision that has already been lost. But one large clinical trial showed that PDT delayed or prevented further loss of vision during a one-year follow-up with patients.
Ways to Lower Your Risk
Dr. Kanoff said that no one knows exactly what causes AMD. But currently the best way to protect your eyes from AMD is to do the same things you should do to avoid many other chronic diseases.
Research shows that AMD occurs less often in people who avoid smoking (which happens to double your risk), get regular exercise and eat nutritious foods. Food choices that can help reduce your risk include dark-green leafy vegetables, eggs, carrots or any food high in beta-carotene, almonds, and fruits high in vitamin C. Also, eating fatty fish one or more times a week may reduce your risk for AMD.
View Powerpoint slides from Dr. Kanoff’s lecture for the Boulder Community Health System’s Community Education series on “Advances in Treating Macular Degeneration.”