March 23, 2004.
BY DR. SEAN KENNIFF,
ASK DR. SEAN.
Q: What is age-associated macular degeneration, and what is the best way to treat it?
A: Age-associated macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in Americans older than 55. For most cases the cause is unknown, and there is no cure. But according to Dr. Lawrence Halperin, an ophthalmologist and retinal surgeon with offices in Broward and Palm Beach counties, it can be treated effectively, if you recognize the symptoms early.
''Unlike cataracts, where the vision problems occur gradually, macular degeneration often compromises vision very quickly,'' Halperin said, ``People often complain of visual distortion, particularly distorted central vision.''
Some sufferers also see a central dark spot, or a decrease in color perception.
The most serious form of macular degeneration, the so-called ''wet'' variant, is due to abnormal arteries on the retina, and lasers are often used to control their growth. However, lasers can damage the retina and lead to decreased vision.
That's why Halperin is conducting a clinical trial using a series of injections with an experimental therapy called anti-VEGF.
''VEGF is a chemical signal, a messenger that triggers those abnormal arteries to grow. The hope is, by attacking the signal with this medication, we can essentially shut down the growth of new arteries, and save the patients vision,'' he said.
The medication is delivered directly into the eye, under anesthesia, once a month.
The study will last two years and is currently enrolling patients. To enroll, call 1-888-662-6728.
Dr. Sean Kenniff, sken firstname.lastname@example.org, covers health for WFOR CBS-4. His advice is not a substitute for consulting a physician.
End of article.
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