Age related macular degeneration (ARMD) can cause permanent loss of vision; prompt diagnosis and treatment by a retina specialist can prevent loss of vision, and frequently, even restore vision.
Types of Age Related Macular Degeneration
Age related macular degeneration is divided into two categories: the dry (nonexudative), and the wet (exudative) type.
Treatment of Age Related Macular Degeneration
There are currently no approved treatments for dry (nonexudative) age related macular degeneration.There are numerous clinical trials exploring new drug treatments, but as of now, none are commercially available.
What is AREDS?
For patients who have mild to moderate dry age related macular degeneration, antioxidant vitamins have been shown to help reduce the risk of progression. The Age Related Eye Diseases Study (AREDS) has advised certain antioxidant vitamins and minerals for persons with mild to moderate dry age related macular degeneration. Your retina specialist can review with you the AREDS recommendations; a diet high in green, leafy vegetables is also beneficial.
Your retina specialist should also review with you your medical and social history, and discuss any interactions of antioxidant vitamins and certain foods with your medications and risk factors– especially if you take blood thinners (coumadin), or have a history of smoking, lung or breast cancer.
Treatment of Wet Age Related Macular Degeneration
Wet (exudative) age related macular degeneration can be treated with a number of different tools. In some case, laser therapy may be useful; while not used as commonly as before, some patients may still be candidates.
Most patients with wet (exudative) age related macular degeneration are now treated with any one, or sometimes combination, of drugs. Some of these medications are Macugen, Lucentis, Avastin, and Eyelea. Whichever drug is chosen by your retina specialist, they are administered by direct injection into the eye. This procedure has to usually be repeated on a frequent basis.
The injections are typically administered by a retina specialist in the office, with anesthetic eye drops, or sometimes a small anesthetic injection. Patients go home after their treatment. While the vision may be blurry for a short time, there are typically no restrictions; your retina specialist may recommend taking antibiotic drops for a few days afterwards.
Early in the course of treatment, most patients with wet (exudative) age related macular degeneration are seen by their retina specialist every four to six weeks; depending on your retina specialist, pictures of the retina (OCT) and/or examination may be warranted in deciding if and when to continue treatment.
Nader Moinfar, M.D., M.P.H.
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