Blind World

Macular Degeneration.
New Eye Treatment May Improve Vision.

March 22, 2004.

OSTEEN, Fla. -- A Central Florida doctor is looking for help in testing a new drug to fight the leading cause of blindness in people older than 55.

If the tests are successful, the drug could save the sight of tens of thousands of people suffering from macular degeneration, WESH NewsChannel 2 reported.

Elizabeth Quinn, 78, is among those who suffered from the problem.

Every day, activities Quinn used to enjoy became more difficult with her vision problems.

"I've always liked [crossword] puzzles," Quinn said.

She also enjoys reading in her spare time. Two years ago, however, her eyes began to give her trouble.

"This eye started acting sort of funny," Quinn said while pointing to her left eye.

Her doctor told her she was suffering from wet macular degeneration, a condition in which vision is damaged by excess blood vessels that grow under the macula, or center of the eye.

"I can still see all around, but I just can't see in the middle," said Quinn.

When her right eye received the same diagnosis, doctors used a treatment called Visudyne, which used a laser to attack the damaged blood vessels.

"This eye is legally blind, but this eye they caught in time so I still have 20-30 vision in my right eye, which is really lucky," Quinn said.

Quinn said she is now able to return to her normal activities.

"I can read, do puzzles, and do everything that I always did before," Quinn said. "Iíve just been very lucky."

"There are abnormal blood vessels that have begun to develop in the center of the vision," Dr. Preston Richmond said.

Others are not as lucky as Quinn has been. Richmond hopes a new drug called Rhufab will correct the problem earlier than other treatments have in the past. The same theory is used in new cancer drugs.

"We are trying to stop these blood vessels from growing, stop them from progressing and bleeding," Richmond said.

If the procedure is successful, doctors expect there will be more success stories like Quinn's.

"I feel I can drive as well now as when I had perfect vision in both eyes," Quinn said.

Each patient in this trial will get either the Visudyne treatment or the new Rhufab treatment, but will not be told which one they have received.

The test results will be compared to see if the Rhufab will become the next approved treatment, officials said.

To be eligible for this trial, participants must have the wet form of macular degeneration, be 50 years of age or older, and have never received treatment for this condition.

For more information, call (888) 662-6728.

Copyright 2004 by WESH.COM. All rights reserved.

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