Treatments are available that may help slow disease progression, preserve existing vision and, if started early enough, recover some lost vision.
Medications to stop growth of abnormal blood vessels
Medications may help stop growth of new blood vessels by blocking the effects of growth signals the body sends to generate new blood vessels. These drugs are considered the first line treatment for all stages of wet macular degeneration.
Medications used to treat wet macular degeneration include:
- Bevacizumab (Avastin)
- Ranibizumab (Lucentis)
- Aflibercept (Eylea)
Your doctor injects these medications into the affected eye. You may need injections every four weeks to maintain the beneficial effect of the medication. In some instances, you may partially recover vision as the blood vessels shrink and the fluid under the retina absorbs, allowing retinal cells to regain some function.
Possible risks of eye injections include conjunctival hemorrhage, eye pain, floaters, increased eye pressure and eye inflammation. Some of these medications may increase the risk of stroke.
Using light to activate an injected medication (photodynamic therapy)
Photodynamic therapy is sometimes used to treat abnormal blood vessels at the center of your macula.
In this procedure, your doctor injects a drug called verteporfin (Visudyne) into a vein in your arm, which travels to blood vessels in your eye. Your doctor shines a focused light from a special laser to the abnormal blood vessels in your eye. This activates the drug, causing the abnormal blood vessels to close, which stops the leakage.
Photodynamic therapy may improve your vision and reduce the rate of vision loss. You may need repeated treatments over time, as the treated blood vessels may reopen.
After photodynamic therapy, you'll need to avoid direct sunlight and bright lights until the drug has cleared your body, which may take a few days.
Using a laser to destroy abnormal blood vessels (photocoagulation)
During laser therapy, your doctor uses a high-energy laser beam to seal abnormal blood vessels under the macula. The laser causes scarring that can create a blind spot, but the procedure is used to stop the vessels from bleeding with the aim of minimizing further damage to the macula. Even with this treatment, blood vessels may regrow, requiring further treatment.
Few people who have wet macular degeneration are candidates for this treatment. It generally isn't an option if you have abnormal blood vessels directly under the center of the macula. Also, the more damaged your macula is, the lower the likelihood of success.
Low vision rehabilitation
Age-related macular degeneration doesn't affect your side (peripheral) vision and usually doesn't cause total blindness. But it can reduce or eliminate your central vision — which is necessary for driving, reading and recognizing people's faces. It may be beneficial for you to work with a low vision rehabilitation specialist, an occupational therapist, your eye doctor and others trained in low vision rehabilitation. They can help you find ways to adapt to your changing vision.