Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) affects the macula, which is a portion of the retina. The condition is common, and is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness for people over the age of 60. AMD affects central vision; therefore, patients lose the ability to read, recognize faces, read road signs, and watch television.(1)
There are two kinds of AMD, Dry and Wet. Dry macular degeneration is the more common of the two. Generally, symptoms develop gradually. It rarely causes blindness. Dry AMD can progress to Wet AMD, which is the more serious type. With Wet AMD, blood vessels grow under the retina and leak, causing vision loss.(2) Approximately 10 percent of patients with Dry AMD will progress to Wet AMD.(3)
There are multiple factors involved in AMD, including genetics, biological processes, age, and environment.(3) The following factors increase a person’s risk of developing AMD:
• Age over 60
• Family history
• Race (AMD is most common in Caucasians)
• Cardiovascular Disease
A large study, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) conducted by the National Eye Institute, found that certain dietary supplements reduce the risk of progressing from Dry AMD to Wet AMD by approximately 25%.(4) The AREDS supplements to do not prevent AMD.(4)
For Wet AMD, ophthalmologists inject drugs that suppress the formation of rogue blood vessels. These drugs are called anti-VEGFS.(3) A new treatment area, considered promising, involves retinal gene therapy. “The goal of gene therapy is to employ the body to make its own anti-VEGF by inserting a harmless virus (called an adeno-associated virus/AAV) carrying the anti-VEGF gene into a person’s DNA. More specifically, RGX-314 gene therapy only requires one injection, but it must be performed via a surgical procedure. This treatment is currently getting ready to enter phase II of clinical research trials.”(5)
(1) Yamanuha, J. M.D., Mayo Clinic, What to Know About Age-Related Macular Degeneration, https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org.
(2) Mayo Clinic, Dry Macular Degeneration, https://www.mayoclinic.org.
(3) American Macular Degeneration Foundation, Research Into Age-Related Macular Degeneration, https://www.macular.org.
(4) Archives of Ophthalmology, A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Clinical Trial of High-Dose Supplementation With Vitamins C and E, Beta Carotene, and Zinc for Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Vision Loss, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
(5) Christianson, S., Shah, A. M.D. (reviewer) verywellhealth, Macular Degeneration Breakthroughs,