January 19, 2004.
Wet macular degeneration is an incurable disease that affects the eyes of more than a million-and-a-half people in the U.S. Most of them are over the age of 55 and often the disease causes them to become legally blind.
But now there is a new treatment currently in an Austin clinical trial that's showing promising results. The study involves a drug which is injected directly into the eye. Doctors say because it's less invasive than most wet macular treatments, it may actually help restore lost vision.
"It's just something that you let slip," said 70-year-old Bud Woodruff, "and before you know it, it's got a big hold of you that won't turn loose."
Woodruff is speaking of wet macular degeneration, which has left him legally blind.
"We call it wet because it's associated with leakage and frequent hemorrhage underneath the macula," said Dr. Brian Berger, a retinal surgeon. "The macula is the part of the eye where the central vision is."
Dr. Berger says the disease always starts out in dry form but progresses to wet about 10 percent of the time. Although it occurs in both eyes, Dr. Berger says it rarely shows up in the wet form in both eyes at the same time.
"So frequently the first inkling that a person has that they have a problem is they progress to the wet form in one eye and have a serious problem with distortion and blurring of their vision," Dr. Berger said.
Woodruff says he first noticed the problem about 15 years ago while playing softball.
"All of a sudden, I started striking out, and I said this isn't right," Woodruff said. "I've played too much softball, and I could hit that ball, and I was striking out. I wasn't able to hit the ball."
Now he has to use several pairs of glasses just to have some peripheral vision in one eye.
"When I close this eye and look into the distance, I see nothing," Woodruff said. "There's a hole about that big. But I can still see shadows with the left eye. But on the peripheral, it's still good. I can still see color, but I can't see detail."
However, that could change if a new drug currently being tested continues to show promise.
This new treatment looks like it may have some potential in restoring vision," said Dr. Berger. "It looks very promising in that regard."
Dr. Berger is one of two Central Texas physicians taking part in the clinical trial. To find out if you qualify for the two-year study, called the "anchor" trial, you can call 1-888-662-6728. In order to be eligible for the study, patients must: be diagnosed with wet macular degeneration, predominantly classic form; be 50 years of age or older; and not have received treatment for wet macular degeneration.
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