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New Treatments Hold Hope for Failing Eyes
Date:9/27/2009

As the U.S. ages, macular degeneration rates are expected to swell

SUNDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Already a leading cause of vision loss among people older than 60, age-related macular degeneration is expected to skyrocket in numbers over the coming decades as the U.S. population grows older.

However, a series of new treatments now under study or in development should mean that eye specialists will be well-prepared to treat the coming surge of macular degeneration cases.

These include refinements of treatments that have proven effective against some forms of the disease as well as new therapies targeting forms of macular degeneration that have so far proven impossible to treat.

Age-related macular degeneration involves the breakdown of the macula, which is located in the retina and helps provide clear central vision. As the macula deteriorates, people see a blurred spot in the center of their vision that grows over time.

Macular degeneration comes in two forms, wet and dry. Current treatments for the wet form of the disease -- in which abnormal new blood vessels in the eye cause leakage and bleeding -- 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, said Dr. David W. Parke II, executive vice president and chief executive of 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, or VEGF, a substance in the body that promotes the growth of new blood vessels.

"We now have treatments where, when we catch people early in the course of the disease, the chance of vision loss is less than 10 percent over a two-year period," said George Williams, chairma
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