As yet there is no cure for macular degeneration; however, there are ways to delay the progression of the disease, especially if caught in the early or “dry” stages. Several treatments have also shown promise in reducing the impact of the wet form of the disease.
The best doctors to handle the management and treatment of macular degeneration are retina specialists, or doctors that are specially trained to provide quality care for people with retinal diseases. Retina specialists have extensive experience and stay up-to-date with the latest advances in the field of macular health.
Dietary Modifications and Nutritional Supplements
Nutritional modifications and vitamin supplements do not cure macular degeneration, nor do they restore vision that has already been lost. However, studies have shown that following a healthy diet with key nutrients can slow the progression of macular degeneration progressing to advanced stages, and reduce the risk of losing vision from the disease.
Perhaps the most well-known study of its kind, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) looked at people at high risk of developing wet macular degeneration, and found that those that took a special dietary supplement of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and zinc lowered their risk of experiencing a progression of the disease by 25 percent. A follow-up study, AREDS 2, found that removing Vitamin A and reducing the zinc levels reduced possible side effects — and adding lutein and zeaxanthin reduced the risk of disease progression in people that had intermediate stages of macular degeneration.
Additional studies have demonstrated the benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation when facing the early stages of macular degeneration. These supplements improve macular pigment levels, retinal health and contrast sensitivity. Unfortunately, the body does not naturally produce lutein and zeaxanthin. They must be consumed in dietary sources (e.g., dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli, or eggs) or through a specially formulated supplement. It is also widely believed that lutein and zeaxanthin can help lower the risk of other chronic eye diseases like cataracts.
Individuals that have been diagnosed with macular degeneration — or are at a heightened risk of the disease because of their age or other risk factors — should speak with their eye doctor to learn more about whether supplements are an appropriate preventative method.
Anti-VEGF Injection Therapy
There are several ways to stop the progression of the more serious “wet” form of macular degeneration. One method is called anti-VEGF injection therapy. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a protein that triggers the formation of new blood vessels; unfortunately, in people with wet macular degeneration these new blood vessels are abnormal and can leak, causing scarring and leading to the loss of sharp central vision. Injections of anti-VEGF drugs block the binding and activation of VEGF receptors.
The FDA has approved several types of drugs, including Lucentis and Eylea, for the treatment of wet macular degeneration. Depending on the drug, the chemicals should be administered in small doses every month for a few months, decreasing in frequency over time.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
Another way to treat the wet form of macular degeneration is photodynamic therapy, or PDT. A special drug called Visudyne is injected into the arm and travels through the blood vessels. As it passes the retinal blood vessels, it is activated with a special low-energy laser beam. The chemical reaction that the combination produces destroys abnormal blood vessels.
Traditional laser therapy can also be utilized to destroy abnormal blood vessels in the retina and prevent further leakage, bleeding and growth. However, half of all patients that have laser therapy require additional treatment within three to five years.
Inquire about Macular Degeneration Treatment Options
Do you have questions about the macular degeneration treatment or management strategies mentioned here? Contact our practice today to speak with one of our retina specialists.