How is wet AMD treated?
Wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery, photodynamic therapy, and
injections into the eye. None of these treatments is a cure for wet AMD. The disease and
loss of vision may progress despite treatment.
1. Laser surgery. This procedure uses a laser to
destroy the fragile, leaky blood vessels. A high energy beam of light is aimed directly
onto the new blood vessels and destroys them, preventing further loss of vision.
However, laser treatment may also destroy some surrounding healthy tissue and some
vision. Only a small percentage of people with wet AMD can be treated with laser
surgery. Laser surgery is more effective if the leaky blood vessels have developed away
from the fovea, the central part of the macula. Laser surgery is performed in a doctor's
office or eye clinic. The risk of new blood vessels developing after laser treatment is
high. Repeated treatments may be necessary. In some cases, vision loss may progress
despite repeated treatments.
2. Photodynamic therapy. A drug called verteporfin is
injected into your arm. It travels throughout the body, including the new blood vessels
in your eye. The drug tends to "stick" to the surface of new blood vessels. Next, a
light is shined into your eye for about 90 seconds. The light activates the drug. The
activated drug destroys the new blood vessels and leads to a slower rate of vision
decline. Unlike laser surgery, this drug does not destroy surrounding healthy tissue.
Because the drug is activated by light, you must avoid exposing your skin or eyes to
direct sunlight or bright indoor light for five days after treatment.
Photodynamic therapy is relatively painless. It takes about 20 minutes
and can be performed in a doctor's office. Photodynamic therapy slows the rate of vision
loss. It does not stop vision loss or restore vision in eyes already damaged by advanced
AMD. Treatment results often are temporary. You may need to be treated again.
3. Injections. Wet AMD can now be treated with new
drugs (e.g. Avastin, Lucentis and Macugen) that are injected into the eye (anti-VEGF
therapy). Abnormally high levels of a specific growth factor occur in eyes with wet AMD
and promote the growth of abnormal new blood vessels. This drug treatment blocks the
effects of the growth factor.
You will need multiple injections that may be given as often as
monthly. The eye is numbed before each injection. After the injection, you will remain
in the doctor's office for a while and your eye will be monitored. This drug treatment
can help slow down vision loss from AMD and in some cases improve sight.