Already a leading cause of vision loss among people older than 60, macular degeneration involves the breakdown of the macula, which helps provide clear vision. As the macula deteriorates, people see a blurred spot in the center of their vision. The blurriness grows over time.
Researchers report that new treatments now under study or in development could be used to treat the two forms of macular degeneration, wet and dry. Current treatments for the wet form of the disease have proven quite successful. The wet form is more rare but can cause rapid vision loss if not caught early.
Researchers have discovered a combination therapy of vitamins and antioxidants that reduces the risk of progressive vision loss by more than 20 percent, according to a report from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Other progress against the wet form of the disease has come through the use of drugs that target vascular endothelial growth factor. Caught early in the course of the disease, the chance of vision loss is less than 10 percent over a two-year period, scientists note. Cutting-edge research also may have found another way to tackle the wet form of macular degeneration. In the June 14 issue of Nature, doctors reported that blocking the activity of a specific protein can reduce the same blood vessel growth that leads to the wet form.
No effective treatments have been found for the dry form of macular degeneration. The dry form accounts for 85 percent of all macular degeneration cases, according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance.
Medical experts note that a combination of antioxidants and zinc may slow the progression of the disease. Smokers should not use this treatment. The recommended supplements contain: 500 milligrams of vitamin C, 400 International Units of beta-carotene, 80 milligrams of zinc and 2 milligrams of copper.
On a positive note, scientists reportedly are optimistic that within three to five years a treatment for the dry form of macular degeneration will exist.