While there is no cure for wet AMD, it can be treated with laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and injections into the eye. The disease and loss of vision may progress despite treatment. Never put off the treatment recommended by your vision care provider.
Wet AMD treatments include:
Wet AMD can now be treated with new drugs that are injected into the eye (anti-VEGF therapy). Abnormally high levels of a specific growth factor occur in eyes with wet AMD and promote the growth of abnormal new blood vessels. This drug treatment blocks the effects of the growth factor.
The word vascular simply refers to vessels, which need a special substance called endothelial growth factor (EGF) to thrive. Think of EGF as fertilizer for blood vessels. Depriving the vascular network of EGF chokes off new growth, which turns out to be a fairly effective therapy for wet AMD. In fact, Lucentis (ranibizumab), a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is the only treatment that can marginally improve vision in those with AMD. The drug is injected directly into the eye every four weeks or so. You will need multiple injections that may be given as often as monthly. The eye is numbed before each injection. After the injection, you will remain in the doctor's office for a while and your eye will be monitored. This drug treatment can help slow down vision loss from AMD and in some cases improve sight.
Lucentis has been shown to improve vision over one to two years in at least one third of those treated. This is the most important drug in the treatment of macular degeneration, and is used by the vast majority of retinal specialist. It has revolutionized the treatment of the disease.
This procedure uses a laser to destroy the fragile, leaky blood vessels. A high energy beam of light is aimed directly onto the new blood vessels and destroys them, preventing further loss of vision. However, laser treatment may also destroy some surrounding healthy tissue and some vision.
Only a small percentage of people with wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery. Laser surgery is more effective if the leaky blood vessels have developed away from the fovea, the central part of the macula. Laser surgery is performed in a doctor's office or eye clinic. The risk of new blood vessels developing after laser treatment is high. Repeated treatments may be necessary. In some cases, vision loss may progress despite repeated treatments.
A drug called verteporfin is injected into your arm. It travels throughout the body, including the new blood vessels in your eye. The drug tends to "stick" to the surface of new blood vessels. Next, a light is shined into your eye for about 90 seconds. The light activates the drug. The activated drug destroys the new blood vessels and leads to a slower rate of vision decline. Unlike laser surgery, this drug does not destroy surrounding healthy tissue. Because the drug is activated by light, you must avoid exposing your skin or eyes to direct sunlight or bright indoor light for five days after treatment.
Photodynamic therapy is relatively painless. It takes about 20 minutes and can be performed in a doctor's office. Photodynamic therapy slows the rate of vision loss. It does not stop vision loss or restore vision in eyes already damaged by advanced AMD. Treatment results often are temporary. You may need to be treated again.
What Can I Do If I Have Already Lost Some Vision from AMD?
Using your eyes after they have been damaged by wet AMD will not cause further deterioration, so you should continue to engage in any activities you can perform comfortably and safely. If you have a blur or blank spot in your central visual field, try adjusting your gaze. Instead of looking at things head-on, try looking at them obliquely — to one side, above, or below the mark. This allows you to see your real target using your peripheral vision.
Also your eye care professional about low vision services and devices that may help you make the most of your remaining vision. Ask for a referral to a specialist in low vision. Many community organizations and agencies offer information about low vision counseling, training, and other special services for people with visual impairments. A nearby school of medicine or optometry may provide low vision services.
Vision rehabilitation therapists can show you how to organize your pantry so that you don't open the peaches when you want carrots. They can help you arrange your clothes so that you can easily find a matching shirt and slacks, and they can identify any hazards posed by flooring, rugs, furniture, and appliances.
Low Vision Devices:
Many low-vision devices, which are available in The Lighthouse Store, help people’s day-to-day life easier. There is a vast selection of helpful, vision-friendly products, including glare-free lighting, household items, magnifying mirrors, watches, clocks, computer software and CCTVs.
Below are a few examples:
Telephones and television remote controls are made with jumbo keypads, or you can purchase overlays for existing devices. You can also purchase clocks, watches, and timers with extra-large dials or digital readouts.
Large-print and audio editions of books, newspapers, and magazines are available.
For more information on low vision devices, visit The Lighthouse Store.