Public Release: 

Approaches to preventing, treating and living with macular degeneration discussed at Academy meeting

American Academy of Ophthalmology

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Leading researchers discussed the latest breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and methods of visual rehabilitation, at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Eye M.D. Association.

Mortality and Nutritional Risk Factors Emily Y. Chew, MD, medical officer at the Division of Biometry and Epidemiology, National Eye Institute presented updated information from the Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS). The study assessed the effect of vitamin and mineral supplementation on the onset and progression of AMD. The latest AREDS findings show there is a high correlation of mortality and advanced AMD. Study participants who took only zinc had the lowest mortality rate. "AMD may be more of a systemic disease than just an ocular disease," she said.

Surgery and Steroid Treatment for AMD

William F. Mieler, MD, professor of ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine, reviewed the history and current status of surgical approaches to treating AMD. He also reported on the promising results of Phase II/III clinical trials of anecortave acetate, a steroid analog injected into the eye that significantly reduces loss of vision. "The 24-month results show this is a safe and effective treatment for AMD," said Dr. Mieler. "Future studies will assess a depot delivery system that does not require injections into the eye."

Macugen and Other Anti-VEGF Drugs

Lawrence Singerman, MD, clinical professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, discussed the recently approved drug Macugen (pegaptanib sodium). It has been found to significantly reduce the loss of vision in patients with all types of AMD, and to regain vision in 33 percent of patients. This drug was also successfully used to treat larger AMD lesions. "Eventually, we won't have to choose just one drug approach, just like we see in cancer therapy," said Dr. Singerman.

Visual Rehabilitation

Lylas G. Mogk, MD, director of the Visual Rehabilitation and Research Center of the Henry Ford Health System and chair of the Academy's Vision Rehabilitation Committee, spoke on the impact of vision loss and visual rehabilitation. "Every year 200,000 people lose central vision for AMD, most of which is not treatable with current medical approaches," she said. "Vision impairment causes more loss of function than any other physical impairment. There are also higher rates of depression with vision loss compared with heart disease, lung disease and cancer. Fortunately there is good news. Visual rehabilitation can help people do home-based activities and remain active in the community."

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The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons--Eye M.D.s--with more than 27,000 members worldwide. For more information about eye health care, visit the Academy's partner Web site, the Medem Network, at http://www.medem.com/eyemd. To find an Eye M.D. in your area, visit the Academy's Web site at http://www.aao.org.

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