A new treatment for loss of vision

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of blindness in the UK - 220,000 people who are registered blind or partially sighted have the condition. However, the Royal National Institute for the Blind estimates that the total number of people suffering from AMD may actually be closer to 400,000. Capio Eye is one of the first clinics to offer an effective, groundbreaking treatment for AMD.

This article on Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is written by Laurence Whitefield, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Capio Eye, a specialist division of Capio Springfield Hospital based in Harley Street.

AMD is the most common cause of poor sight among people over the age of 60 in the UK. It is unclear what causes AMD, but it becomes more likely as a person ages as, with time, the delicate cells of the macula become damaged and worn out. AMD attacks the macula, located at the back of the eye at the centre of the retina. The macula enables us to see directly what is in front of us and pick out fine detail. It helps us with everything from reading and driving to recognising faces and seeing colour.

In the early stages of AMD central vision may be blurred or distorted, with objects looking an unusual size or shape and straight lines appearing wavy or fuzzy. Those suffering from the condition may see lights, shapes and colours that are not actually there.

There are two forms of AMD – a less severe ‘dry’ form, and the rapidly degenerating ‘wet’ AMD which develops quickly as fragile blood vessels grow behind the retina often leak fluid and blood. This results in scarring and rapid sight loss.

At Capio Eye, we offer a choice of two breakthrough treatments for wet AMD - Avastin® or Lucentis®. Both have been seen to stabilise sight in 95% patients suffering from wet AMD and improve sight in one-third. Neither of these treatments are generally available on the NHS.

In the US, ophthalmologists who specialise in retinal disease have been using Avastin for some months to treat patients with wet or neovascular form AMD. Results have shown that the treatment controls the abnormal blood vessels in AMD, increasing vision. Lucentis is a very exciting development because it can be used to treat all types of AMD. Thousands of people a year in the UK get wet AMD leading to rapidly sight loss. This treatment provides patients with a way of recovering their sight. Even patients well below the threshold for registration as blind - have been shown to benefit from the treatment.

Both Avastin and Lucentis treatments consist of three injections into the eye that stop the development of leaky blood vessels that trigger AMD. Further injections are sometimes necessary, depending on a patient's progress. The procedure is painless and patients do not need to wear eye pads. The treatment works on patients suffering recent deterioration of vision and is not suitable for those who are already blind or who have established scarring of the retina. These treatments are generally covered by private health care insurance.

Avastin(r)and Lucentis are not generally available on the NHS, but Local Primary Care Trusts can opt to provide the treatment on a case by case basis.

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