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New Hope for Age-Related Macular Degeneration

New Hope for Age-Related Macular Degeneration
July 07
16:06 2017

Did you know that age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible vision impairment and blindness in the world?

Do you even know what age-related macular degeneration or what the macula is?

The layer in the back of your eye that is responsible for your vision is called the retina. There is a small area in the center of retina where you see what is straight ahead of you. This area is called the macula. It’s the macula that’s important to our vision in that it allows us to see needed details used in writing, reading and seeing a tiny splinter in your child’s finger. The macula also helps us see color details and to appreciate different colors.

As we get older, the macula can begin to degenerate to the point where everything straight ahead of us is blurry or worse, you have a black spot in the center of your vision. Here is a simple definition of age-related macular degeneration:

“Age-related macular degeneration is an irreversible destruction of the macula, which leads to loss of the sharp, fine-detail, ‘straight ahead’ vision required for activities like reading, driving, recognizing faces, and seeing the world in color.”

Here are some additional facts that should impress upon you the severity of age-related macular degeneration:

  • Macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older.
  • The number of people living with macular degeneration is similar to that of those who have been diagnosed with the most prevalent invasive cancers.
  • As many as 11 million people in the United States have some form of age-related macular degeneration. This number is expected to double to nearly 22 million by 2050.
  • Age is a prominent risk factor for age-related macular degeneration. The risk of getting advanced age-related macular degeneration increases from 2% for those ages 50-59, to nearly 30% for those over the age of 75.
  • Estimates of the direct health care costs of visual impairment due to age-related macular degeneration in the US, Canada, and Cuba (WHO subregion AMR-A), collectively, is approximately US$98 billion.

To date, there is no cure or remedy for age-related macular degeneration. You can find websites that offer tips to slowing or dealing with AMD, but there is no cure and it is irreversible once it happens.

However, there may be a glimmer of light on an otherwise very dark horizon:

“The new study included 129 participants ages 60 to 89 in the United States and Germany. All of the participants had a particular type of AMD called geographic atrophyAMD, or ‘dry AMD.’ In the 18-month trial, the participants who were given monthly injections of a drug called lampalizumab had a 20 percent reduction, on average, in the size of the area of the retina that is affected by the disease, compared with the control group that was given a placebo injection.”

“One group of patients in particular benefited from the drug, experiencing a 44 percent drop in the size of the area affected by the disease. A genetic analysis of these patients revealed that they shared a certain genetic mutation, according to the study, which was funded by the company Genentech.”

“‘The most important implication of these results is that it shows how the genetics of a human disease may be critical for understanding the disease,’ study co-author Dr. Erich Strauss, a clinical scientist at Genentech, told Live Science. Such research ‘may guide the discovery of new therapeutic targets to treat the disease and define populations that may benefit most from treatment,’ he added.”

“‘The fact that we now have something that can possibly slow down the progress of this disease is very exciting to the field, since nothing exists right now,’ Dr. Wai Wong, a retinal disease specialist at the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, who did not take part in this study, told Live Science.”

If you or any of your loved ones is suffering from age-related macular degeneration, there may now be hope, although this is still in the experimental stage and will probably not be available for a few years yet. However, talk to your ophthalmologist about this new experimental drug – lampalizumab – and ask if and when it will be available. It just may help you keep your vision longer and even reduce the effect of your age-related macular degeneration.



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