Treating Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Currently, there is no cure for macular degeneration. Treatment, however, may prevent some vision loss and slow the progression of macular degeneration. Several options are available, including:

Current Dry Macular Degeneration Treatment

  • Dietary supplements: Dietary supplements such as vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, and zinc have been shown to decrease the risk of vision loss in patients with intermediate to advanced dry macular degeneration. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) showed that people with the intermediate stage of dry AMD could reduce their risk of progressing to advanced dry macular degeneration by about 25% by taking a special high-dose formula of the supplements, sold without a prescription. It is important to note that high-dose vitamins, even when sold without a prescription, may present a risk for some people. Smokers taking beta-carotene may increase their risk of lung cancer.

Current Wet Macular Degeneration Treatments

  • Laser therapy: High-energy laser light is used to destroy actively growing abnormal blood vessels that occur in macular degeneration
  • Photodynamic laser therapy: A 2-step treatment in which a light-sensitive drug is used to close the abnormal blood vessels. Your doctor injects the drug into your arm or hand vein. It is absorbed by abnormal blood vessels in your eye. Your doctor then uses a cold laser to activate the drug in your eye, destroying the abnormal blood vessels. Currently, this treatment is approved by the FDA for approximately 25% of wet AMD patients
  • Anti-VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) Therapy: Examples include Macugen, Lucentis and Avastin (this last drug is considered "off label use" as of August 2006. This new therapy works by blocking a key signal that causes abnormal vessels under your macula to grow and leak. This is believed to lead to wet AMD disease.

Investigational Wet Macular Degeneration Treatments

  • Corticosteroid therapy: A corticosteroid derivative is being studied as a potential treatment option for some types of wet AMD patients
  • Additional VEGF Therapies: There are additional drugs under investigation that are designed to block the key signal that causes abnormal vessels under your macula to grow and leak

Managing Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Only your doctor can determine the right treatment for you. In addition to medical treatment, your doctor may ask you to help self-manage your macular degeneration in the following ways:

  • Regular eye exams can monitor the course of macular degeneration and screen for other problems. Early detection of changes provides earlier treatment and better results
  • Self-vision testing can detect sudden vision changes that may be a sign of abnormal blood vessel growth or leakage. An Amsler grid test can reveal signs of degeneration such as blurred vision, wavy vision lines, or blank spots. Self-testing does not replace regular eye checkups with your doctor. If you notice any changes to your vision, immediately report them to your ophthalmologist. If you don't have an ophthalmologist, you can find one near you with the Eye Doctor Finder
  • Vision aids such as magnifiers can help with tasks that require detailed vision. Large-face clocks and appliances, as well as large print books, can help people continue to read and take care of themselves. It may also be helpful to visit a low-vision specialist, who can prescribe vision devices and train you to use them in everyday situations. To find a low-vision specialist, visit Vision aids may not be appropriate for all patients and do not replace regular eye exams to maintain good eye health. Be sure to consult with your eye doctor to determine if a vision aid is right for you.