A retina that has been destroyed by AMD cannot be recovered, and the loss of vision is permanent. However, there are treatments that can halt or delay its progression, depending on the type of AMD (“dry” or “wet”).
The “dry” form of AMD is not treatable, but vitamin and antioxidant therapies are available that appear to decrease the risk of progression to more advanced forms of the disease. For the “wet” form of AMD, there is treatment available, and this should be started as early as possible.
Prior to the year 2000, the only treatment available for “wet” type AMD was laser. However, this could only treat a small number of patients who had lesions in the fundus of the eye with well-defined characteristics. It was also a destructive treatment that destroyed the neovessels, while causing burning to the retina, which in itself led to severe vision loss.
Photodynamic therapy with verteporfin (Visudyne ®) appeared in 2000, as the first selective treatment that enabled the neovessels to be destroyed while preserving much of the adjacent retina. However, it could not treat every type of lesion, and despite the treatment, patients’ vision tended to continue to decline, albeit to a lesser extent than in untreated patients.
In 2004, new treatments with intravenous injection of antiangiogenic drugs began to emerge. These involve injecting medications into the eyeball that inhibit the growth of anomalous vessels. When performed by trained ophthalmologists and under aseptic conditions, this is a relatively painless and safe procedure.
This new treatment provides hope for patients with macular lesions that, up until now, were considered untreatable. Since the available treatments do not guarantee a cure, it is very important to control the disease, and to be aware of any changes in the lesions. For this reason, the ophthalmologist may instruct the patient perform a very simple vision test each day, using the Amsler grid.