Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects five percent of Americans age 65 and older. This degenerative eye disease destroys central vision which is necessary to see objects clearly and perform daily tasks such as driving, reading, and operating machinery.
Ten years ago, the recommended treatment for Wet AMD was photodynamic therapy. This method used IV drugs and laser treatment to seal off leaking blood vessels in the eye that are caused by AMD. However, less than 15 percent of patients who selected photodynamic therapy alone had 20/40 vision; up to 40 percent declined to 20/200 vision. To keep driving privileges in most states, you must have at least 20/40 vision.
There is a better alternative to photodynamic therapy. A new study funded by the U.S. National Eye Institute indicates that the drugs Avastin (bevacizumab) and Lucentis (ranibizumab) can help older people with wet age-related macular degeneration remain independent. Avastin and Lucentis are both classified as anti-VEGF drugs. VGEF is a protein that causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the eyes. To reverse this process, Avastin or Lucentis are injected directly into the eye.
Maureen Maguire, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania, led the study which included 650 patients with the form of AMD called wet AMD. This is characterized by abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid, which grow under the retina. After five years of treatment with Avastin or Lucentis, 50 percent of the participants had 20/40 vision or better. Twenty-five percent of the participants had 20/200 vision after five years, and the remainder of the participants were between 20/40 and 20/200 (Source: US News and World Report).
Maguire is encouraged by the results of the study but says that more research needs to be done. She stated, “Although anti-VEGF treatment has greatly improved the prognosis for patients overall, we still need to find ways to avoid poor vision in these patients and to decrease the burden of ongoing treatment."