What are the Different Options for Macular Degeneration Therapy?

A. Pasbjerg

The options available for macular degeneration therapy depend on the form of the disease a patient has. For those with dry macular degeneration, where the cells of the macula break down, treatment options are limited; there is no known way to reverse damage from the disease or stop it completely, but high doses of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants have been shown to slow its progression for some patients. In cases of wet macular degeneration, where abnormal blood vessels develop and grow into the macula, a wider variety of treatments focused on minimizing damage and preserving the patient's remaining vision are available. Options include laser surgery, drug therapy, and photodynamic therapy.

Stem cells therapy has shown promise for treating age-related macular degeneration.
Stem cells therapy has shown promise for treating age-related macular degeneration.

Dry macular degeneration therapy typically consists of giving patients high doses of certain vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A, C and E have all been shown to help slow the disease. Zinc and copper are known to be helpful in slowing it down in some cases. Certain antioxidants such as lutein may also be included in treatment.

Laser eye surgery can treat some kinds of macular degeneration.
Laser eye surgery can treat some kinds of macular degeneration.

One option for wet macular degeneration therapy is laser surgery, or photocoagulation. The treatment involves burning the new blood vessels that are growing in the eye using a laser. It is only appropriate for certain patients where the blood vessels have not progressed to the center of their vision. There is some risk involved with this approach, as it can damage and scar nearby tissue and potentially cause additional vision loss.

Drug therapy with anti-angiogenics may also be used to treat wet macular degeneration. Certain drugs such as ranibizumab or bevacizumab can be injected directly into the eye to slow or stop blood vessel growth. There is less risk of damage to the eye than with photocoagulation with this form of treatment, and it can be used with a larger group of patients; however, there are possible side effects from the drugs that should be considered when choosing this option.

Another possible form of wet macular degeneration therapy is photodynamic therapy. This treatment involves injecting the drug verteporfin into the bloodstream, where it then travels to the eye and ends up in the abnormal vessels there. A cold laser is then used to activate the drug, which will seal off those vessels. This technique is also less damaging to the eye than laser surgery, though it may be more effective if used in conjunction with drug therapy than by itself.

Age-related macular degeneration is a progressive disorder that can cause blindness.
Age-related macular degeneration is a progressive disorder that can cause blindness.

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