Is there a cure for macular degeneration?

I see a lot of patients with macular degeneration, and I get asked this question a lot. Here I wanted to share with you what I usually explain.

The retina is the inner coating of the back of the eye. It picks up light signals and transmits them to your brain in processing vision.

Macular degeneration is a condition that affects the central part of the retina, known as the macula. We use the macula for our central vision. We use it in tasks such as reading, recognising faces, watching television and walking around. In fact, we use the macula the vast majority of our time.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when the macula shows wear and tear signs of ageing.

We naturally see this with our hearing as we get older as some people develop deafness or with our ageing joints in arthritis.

Unfortunately, our eyes also age.

As a result, macular degeneration can affect your central vision.  Visual disturbances can be mild central (or off-centre) blur. Or, it can be a distortion to large central patches obscuring all the central vision in one or both eyes.

These disturbances can cause difficulties for patients. Many of my patients are desperate for their vision to return to normal.

Can we cure macular degeneration? The short answer is no.

We do not have the ability to reverse the ageing changes seen in the macula.

The problem is that modern medicine has not found a cure for ageing in any part of the body, and that includes the eye.

What we can do with macular degeneration is reverse the complications of the disease.

One complication of age-related macular degeneration is the development of new blood vessels that grow under the retina. We call this complication wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD).

We have effective treatments for wet AMD. These treatments include intravitreal injections such as AvastinLucentis and Aflibercept.

Some on-going research studies are looking at a possible treatment for the dry form of age macular degeneration. One promising study uses lampalizumab. But, this treatment seems like it will halt the progression of dry AMD rather than cure it.

Keep an eye out for the use of stem cell treatment for macular degeneration. This approach may be one possibility for replacing ageing retinal cells and a possible cure for macular degeneration. We await the results of the trials eagerly.

In the meantime, if you have any concerns about macular degeneration, and you would like to know more about your condition, the risks of visual loss and treatment, please feel free to contact me on 020 7952 2826 and I would be happy to chat more.