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There's Hope for People with Age-Related Macular Degeneration

San Francisco CA, 5 February 2004
Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology

February is Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Low-Vision Awareness Month

Although Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of visual impairment in Caucasians over the age of 50 in the United States, affecting more than 1.5 million people, there is hope. As part of AMD/Low-Vision Awareness Month in February, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Eye MD Association, reminds people there are options.

Although there is no known cure for AMD, recent research and new treatments are showing great promise. The treatments proven to help include:

  • Photodynamic therapy: This is a treatment that combines laser surgery with use of light-sensitive drugs, and has been shown to stabilize or improve vision in up to 60 percent of patients with the wet form of AMD. The Food and Drug Administration has approved this therapy.

  • Vitamin and mineral supplementation: The Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that high levels of antioxidants and zinc can reduce the risk of vision loss by about 25 percent in high-risk patients—those with intermediate AMD in one or both eyes and those with advanced AMD in only one eye. Smokers and ex-smokers should not use beta carotene because studies have shown an association with lung cancer and beta carotene in smokers.

For people who have lost vision from AMD, rehabilitation to maximize function and independence is important. Academy spokesperson Lylas G. Mogk, MD, Director of the Visual Rehabilitation and Research Center of the Henry Ford Health System, and chair of the Academy's Vision Rehabilitation Committee, said, "Vision loss causes more depression than any other physical impairment. This depression doesn't depend on how much vision is lost, but rather on how much function is lost performing one's daily activities. The tools, training and resources are available to help those with macular degeneration live full and independent lives despite vision loss."

AMD is a progressive disease that affects the macula, the spot on the retina at the back of the eye responsible for central vision, causing central vision to blur, but leaving peripheral vision intact. The two types of AMD are dry, or atrophic, and wet, or exudative. Approximately 90 percent of people with AMD have the dry form, which is caused by aging and thinning of the macula. Although only 10 percent of people with AMD have the wet form, it is this form that causes 90 percent of visual impairment. Wet AMD is characterized by the growth of abnormal retinal blood vessels that leak blood or fluid, causing rapid and severe central vision loss.

Risk factors for AMD include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Use of thyroid hormones and antacids
  • Use of diuretics or presence of arthritis
  • Farsightedness
  • High body mass index, a measure of obesity

The Academy encourages those over 50 to see an Eye MD for a comprehensive, dilated eye examination every one to two years to help ensure that AMD and other vision-threatening conditions are detected and treated early.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons—Eye MDs—with more than 27,000 members worldwide. For more information about eye health care, visit the Academy's partner website, the Medem Network, at www.medem.com/eyemd. To find an Eye MD in your area, visit the Academy's website (shown below).


American Academy of Ophthalmology (www.aao.org).end-of-story


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