Laser Won't Stop AMD Vision Loss

Laser Treatment Used for Age-Related Macular Degeneration Doesn't Work, Study Shows

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 03, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 3, 2006 – It's final: Low-intensity laser treatment doesn't prevent vision loss from age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.

That finding comes from a definitive study of more than 1,000 people at 22 eye centers throughout the U.S.

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in America. One warning sign is the appearance of yellowish deposits -- called drusen -- under the retina, the "movie screen" at the back of the eye.

For some 35 years, ophthalmologists have tried to prevent age-related vision loss by zapping drusen in low-intensity laser treatments. Now they can stop.

"This approach does not seem to stop vision loss from AMD," Paul A. Sieving, MD, PhD, director of the U.S. National Eye Institute, says in a news release. "Doctors using this technique should reconsider its use in patients with good vision, such as those studied in this trial."

The trial enrolled 1,052 people with large drusen in each eye. Each patient got the laser treatment for one eye, but not the other.

Five years later, there was no difference in vision between the two eyes. Laser treatment didn't stop AMD. It didn't even slow it. The only good news is that the laser treatment didn't seem to do any harm, either.

"There is no evidence from this trial to suggest that people with large drusen should seek preventive laser treatment," study chairman Stuart L. Fine, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania, says in the news release.

The study's results appear in the November issue of Ophthalmology.