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Can Macular Degeneration Be Reversed?



Macular degeneration cannot be reversed.

More Info: Though it is commonly accepted that age-related macular degeneration (AMD) cannot be reversed, there are several treatments available that can help to slow the progression of vision loss and a promising new treatment that may even help to improve vision.

Traditional AMD Treatment Options

Laser Surgery: Wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery. In this procedure, a laser is used to destroy leaking blood vessels to slow the progression of vision loss. Unfortunately, healthy tissue can be destroyed as well. The risk of reoccurrence is high and repeated treatments may be necessary. [“Facts about Age-Related Macular Degeneration.” National Eye Institute]

Photodynamic Therapy: Also used to treat wet AMD, photodynamic therapy (PDT) involves the use of the intravenous drug verteporfin and laser technology.  Once the drug has been introduced to the system intravenously, a non-thermal laser is shined into the eye to activate the drug, which works to target and treat abnormal blood vessels. The procedure does not reverse the condition or restore lost vision, but works to impede its progression.  The cold laser does not damage healthy cells or the retina. [“Treatments for Macular Degeneration” AHAF]

Telescopic Implant: Recently approved by the FDA as a treatment protocol for end stage AMD, this surgical procedure places an implantable miniature telescope in one eye.  Central vision is improved with the assistance of the telescope’s two wide-angled, high-powered lenses.

In a study published in the November 2008 issue of The American Journal of Ophthalmology, the surgical placement of the telescopic prosthesis in participants with end stage age-related macular degeneration resulted in substantial long-term improvement in visual acuity. [Hudson HL et al. 664]

Injections: Another break-through treatment showing promise for is a drug therapy called RhuFab.  In preliminary clinical trials, rhuFab appears to stop wet AMD from progressing and in some cases has restored vision.

Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow behind the macula impeding vision.  RhuFab binds to and subsequently blocks a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is responsible for the blood vessel growth.

Experts warn that these findings, though exciting, require further study to determine the best use for the drug. [“A Study to Evaluate rhuFab V2 in Subjects…”]

Vitamin Therapy: In a study sponsored by the National Eye Institute, a US government agency, high levels of antioxidants and zinc were found to be effective against advanced age-related macular degeneration.  The study, published in the October 2001 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, concluded that for those at risk of developing advanced stages of AMD, high doses of vitamin C, E, beta-carotene, and zinc reduced their risk by twenty-five percent. [“Antioxidant Vitamins and Zinc Reduce Risk…”  National Eye Institute]



“Facts about Age-Related Macular Degeneration [NEI Health Information].” National Eye Institute [NEI], of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Feb. 2011.

“Treatments for Macular Degeneration.” American Health Assistance Foundation (AHAF): Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration and glaucoma.. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Jan. 2013.

“A Study to Evaluate rhuFab V2 in Subjects With Minimally Classic or Occult Subfoveal Neovascular Macular Degeneration.” US National Institutes of Health, 24 Mar. 2003. Web. 5 Jan. 2013.

“Antioxidant Vitamins and Zinc Reduce Risk of Vision Loss from Age-Related Macular Degeneration [NEI News and Events].” NEI | National Eye Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Jan. 2013.

Hudson HL, Stulting RD, Heier JS, Lane SS, Chang DF, Singerman LJ, Bradford CA , Leonard RE. IMT002 Study Group. Implantable Telescope for End-Stage Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Long-Term Visual Acuity and Safety Outcomes. Am J Ophthalmol. 2008;146:664-673. print


Expert Opinion

Quote: “However, there are rare cases where the symptoms of age-related macular degeneration do, in fact, reverse themselves. Even with wet ARMD, improvement is possible.”

Source:   Robert D’Amato M.D. Ph.D Macular Degeneration: The Latest Scientific Discoveries and Treatments for Preserving Your Sight
New York: Walker & Co., 2000. Print.

Quote: “The RDA for vitamin A, for example, is based on how much it takes to maintain normal blood cells, not on how much it takes to cure a vision problem. So, if you are considering taking a supplement to try to control or reverse macular degeneration, the government’s RDA might be inadequate.”

Source: Betty Watson; James J. McMillan M.D. Macular Degeneration:  Living Positively with Vision Loss
Alameda, CA: Hunter House, 1998. Print.

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