New Options for Macular Degeneration

Courtesy of Amy Messere

Courtesy of Amy Messere

Recent animal research from Tufts University suggests that specially formulated eye drops may hold promise for the treatment of the most common form of central blindness in the elderly: wet macular degeneration.

The Disease

Macular degeneration is divided into two groups, wet and dry. Wet macular degeneration is devastating.  It exhibits rapid onset and accounts for 10% of all macular degeneration cases. The reason it is referred to as “wet” is that with significant retinal damage, the body produces new blood vessels (neovascularization) and those vessels become leaky. When the central retina (called the macula) becomes filled with blood, patients notice a sudden and profound blind spot in the middle of their vision.

Current Treatments

Recently, treatments that attempt to stop new blood vessel growth in the retina have been quite successful. These treatments involve injections into the eye every one to two months. While these treatments do not fully restore one’s eyesight, they certainly can slow progression, protect from future neovascularization, and are vital in our current treatment arsenal.

Treatment Challenges

Unfortunately, injections into the eye come with potential risks and problems. First, people are understandably fearful of a needle going into their eye. Second, side effects can include retinal detachments and infections. Injections also deposit all of the medicine at one time instead of in small doses throughout a period of time. In addition, the cost of these procedures can be prohibitive for patients and transportation in the senior population can be hard to manage, especially in this partially sighted group. Finally, most seniors have a calendar that’s already full of health care visits and adding one more every month can be difficult.

The Bottom Line

As a result of these challenges, eye care physicians and patients could benefit from a treatment that is applied at home and that reduces the expense of a monthly procedure.  While the research into a topical eye drop to combat macular degeneration is in its infancy, there is hope and the science appears logical. That being said, it is vitally important that if you or a loved one have been diagnosed with wet macular degeneration that you continue with your current treatments as they are the best chance of success we have at this time. Please stay tuned for updates – and in the meantime, follow up with your optometrist as directed.


David Ardaya, OD
California Optometric Association

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