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Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on August 02, 2022

There's no cure, but treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may slow the disease and keep you from having a severe loss of vision. Talk to your doctor about the best way to manage your condition.

Your Treatment Options

Anti-angiogenic drugs. Your doctor injects these medications into your eye. They stop new blood vessels from forming and block the leaking from the abnormal vessels that cause wet macular degeneration.

Some people who take these drugs have been able to regain vision that they lost from AMD. You will likely need to get the treatment repeated on follow-up visits.

Laser therapy. Your doctor may suggest a treatment with high-energy laser light that can sometimes destroy actively growing abnormal blood vessels from AMD.

Photodynamic laser therapy. It's a two-step treatment that uses a light-sensitive drug to damage your abnormal blood vessels.

Your doctor injects a medication into your bloodstream, which gets absorbed by the abnormal blood vessels in your eye. Next, they shine a laser into the eye to activate the drug, which damages the abnormal blood vessels.

Low vision aids. You can get devices that have special lenses or electronic systems that enlarge images of nearby objects. 

These include:

  • Reading magnifiers (handheld or electronic)
  • Eyeglasses with special lenses
  • Glasses with binoculars
  • Electronic glasses
  • Phone apps
  • Large print products (phones, clocks, print readers)

Next Steps for Macular Degeneration

Some people with the dry form of AMD can develop the wet form. If you've got the dry form now, it's important to keep a check on your vision. Perform a vision check one a week, testing each eye separately. Follow the directions for using an Amsler Grid Chart, which you can place on your refrigerator, or you can view it on a tablet or computer. Let your doctor know if you have any changes. 

If you have the wet form of macular degeneration, even if it's been treated, you should test your vision to see if any blind spots grow bigger or if any new blind spots appear. New blood vessels can emerge months or years after you had injections or laser treatment.

If you only have AMD in one eye, your doctor will do regular eye exams on your other eye to check for signs of new problems.

What's the Outlook?

People rarely lose all of their sight from age-related macular degeneration. You may have poor central vision, but even with advanced AMD you'll still be able to see things to the side, outside your direct line of sight. And you'll still be able to do many of your regular daily activities.

With the severe form of either wet or dry AMD, your central vision may decrease to less than 20/200 in both eyes. Even though you'll have peripheral vision, your vision problems meet the definition of legal blindness.

The dry form of AMD, which is much more common, tends to get worse more slowly, allowing you to keep most of your vision.

Sometimes, even after you get treatment for wet AMD, the condition can come back. Test your vision regularly and follow the recommendations of your doctor. The right treatment not only slows your vision loss, but it can improve your vision.

Prevention

Your doctor can check you for age-related macular degeneration when you see them for a routine eye exam and have a dilated exam

An early diagnosis will let you start treatment that may delay some symptoms or make them less severe. They'll test your vision and also examine your retina -- a layer of tissue at the back of your eye that processes light. They'll look for tiny yellow deposits called drusen under the retina.

It's a common early sign of the disease. Your doctor may also ask you to look at an Amsler grid -- a pattern of straight lines that's like a checkerboard. If some of the lines appear wavy to you or some of them are missing, it could be a sign of macular degeneration.

Tests If your doctor thinks you have age-related macular degeneration, they may want you to have one or both of these exams:

  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT). It's a special photograph that shows a magnified 3D image of your retina. This method helps your doctor see if your retinal layers are distorted. They can also see if swelling is getting better or worse if you had treatment with injections or laser.
  • Fluorescein angiography. In this procedure, your doctor injects a dye into a vein in your arm. They take photos as the dye reaches your eye and flows through the blood vessels of the retina. The images will show new vessels or vessels that are leaking fluid or blood in the macula -- a small area at the center of your retina

Try these prevention tips:

  • Check your sight every day by looking at an Amsler grid -- a pattern of straight lines that's like a checkerboard. It can help you spot changes in your vision.
  • Stop smoking, eat a balanced diet that includes leafy green vegetables, and protect your eyes with sunglasses that block harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
  • Supplements with antioxidants plus zinc may lower your odds of getting AMD, according to the Age-Related Eye Disease Study.
  • Vitamins.  A large study by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, called AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Study), shows benefits if you take a supplement. The study found that a certain combination of vitamins and nutrients helped with both wet and dry macular degeneration. Researchers later tweaked the formula, giving it the name AREDS2. It contains Vitamin C and E , Copper, and Zinc,. An updated” with “Researchers later tweaked the formula after the study was updated, calling it AREDS2. The new formula, which might be safer for smokers, added lutein, zeaxan and removed beta-carotene.
  • If you're over 65, your vision exams should include testing for AMD.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute.

James, B. Lecture Notes on Ophthalmology, Blackwell Publishing, 2003; pp 116-119.

Macular Degeneration Partnership.

National Institutes of Health: "NIH study provides clarity on supplements for protection against blinding eye disease."

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