For more than a decade, ophthalmologists have treated wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) with eye injections given every month or two, and dry AMD with antioxidant vitamins. These treatments were groundbreaking when introduced, offering hope for the first time that this sight-threatening disease could be slowed, and in some cases stopped or even reversed. As we mark February as AMD Awareness Month, Friedberg Eye Associates, PA and the American Academy of Ophthalmology is highlighting what the next decade may hold for the 11 million Americans suffering from AMD.
The good news is that AMD treatment continues to evolve to the benefit of patients. Ophthalmologists expect to soon have more effective options to protect people from going legally blind from AMD.
"While our current treatments have made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, new treatments offer hope to patients whose AMD previously could not be treated,” said Sunir J. Garg, MD, FACS, a retina specialist and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “New treatments will also help patients receive beneficial treatment more conveniently than ever before."
The following is a review of the most promising research.
Dry AMD can be divided into three forms: early, intermediate, and late. For those with intermediate disease, a formulation of antioxidant vitamins called the AREDS2 formula can help many patients reduce their risk of vision loss. But for those with late-stage disease, also called geographic atrophy, there is no treatment available. However, there are several promising clinical trials underway.
Before anti-VEGF treatments were introduced about 15 years ago, people with wet AMD were almost certain to develop severe vision loss or blindness. While clinical trials show that anti-VEGF injections have allowed more than 90 percent of patients to keep their vision, in the real world the percentage is closer to 50 percent. That’s because people aren’t being treated as regularly as they should. The problem is most people need an injection every four to eight weeks to keep their vision. This can be a difficult schedule to maintain for many elderly patients struggling with other maladies and reliant on others to get them to their ophthalmology visits.
Some of the most exciting research today is looking at better alternatives to frequent injections. It’s not just about convenience; the hope is that a more consistent treatment will also help people keep more of their vision.
"This is an exciting time for clinical research for age-related macular degeneration that gives hope to many of our patients,” said Rahul N. Khurana, a retina specialist and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “For dry AMD patients suffering from vision loss, there may be treatments on the horizon. For wet AMD, there are new delivery options with longer duration of action and new molecular targets that may lead to more effective therapies.”