Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the #1 cause of vision loss in people over age 60 in the United States. There are two types of AMD—wet and dry. The wet type is less common, but causes more severe vision loss more rapidly than dry AMD.
What is wet AMD?
AMD damages the macula, the part of your retina that enables you to see things straight ahead of you. In wet AMD, abnormal and weak blood vessels start to develop and leak blood and fluid into the back of the eye. This distorts and scars the macula and eventually destroys central vision. Symptoms include blind spots, wavy or blurred vision, and difficulty reading signs or books. The disease can progress very rapidly, which is why early diagnosis is critical.
Macugen is the first therapy approved by the FDA to treat all types of wet AMD. It works by blocking a key signal that causes the abnormal blood vessels to grow and leak. By helping to slow the growth of these abnormal vessels, Macugen can slow damage and help preserve your vision. The medicine is injected into the back of your eye where it is needed most. A new injection is needed every six weeks.
Visudyne is a light-activated drug that is injected into your arm. The drug collects in the abnormal blood vessels in the retina. A photodynamic “cold” laser, known as PDT, is then shone into the back of the eye to activate the drug, which begins a chemical process that causes the abnormal blood vessels to close. In clinical trials, patients averaged between 3 and 4 treatments in the first year.
Like Macugen, Visudyne therapy cannot restore vision that has already been lost, but it can help slow or prevent additional vision loss. Unlike Macugen, Visudyne is not indicated for all types of wet AMD. There are side effects with both drugs, so be sure and talk to your doctor about which treatment may be right for you.
Like Macugen, Lucentis is another drug to treat wet macular degeneration by impeding new growth of abnormal blood vessels. Lucentis shows promise in reversing the effects of macular degeneration, not just preventing further vision loss. Lucentis is currently available only in clinical trials; however, it is being prescribed using a closely related drug, Avastin.
Dr. Lory Snady-McCoy, M.D., and Gaurav Gupta, M.D., specialize in diseases of the retina and retinal surgery at The Rhode Island Eye Institute. Please call 401-272-2020 in our Providence office, or 508-679-0150 in our Fall River office, or 401-437-0500 in our East Providence office for more information or to schedule an appointment.