Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

What is AMD?
AMD is the number one cause of vision loss for people over the age of 55. It is a common retinal disease that blurs the central vision necessary for everyday tasks such as reading, writing, and driving. AMD occurs when there is a loss of visual cells in the macula and the central part of the retina, that allow you to see fine details.

How common is AMD?
The rate of AMD in our population has increased as life expectancy increases. AMD affects 18 million people, and 1 in 10 over the age of 65 years. Our senior population is projected to double by 2030, and with few treatment options and no known cure, the percentage of those suffering from AMD is expected to dramatically increase.

Can AMD be treated?
Early detection of AMD is important for slowing the progression of the disease. Effective treatment is available for five percent of individuals with late-stage wet AMD. This treatment consists of therapeutic drug injections in the eye that can slow vision loss in some patients. Monitoring progression of the disease with a primary care physician is important. Scientists are currently working to find treatment options for dry AMD. At this time none exist.

How is the Retina Foundation researching AMD?
AMD is a highly complex and individualized disease. A diagnosis cannot be made unless there is visible damage to the structure of the eye. Diagnosis of the disease is measured through visual acuity testing. At this time there are no predictors of disease progression. Research continues to develop solutions to measure predictors, manage disease progression, and treatments. Research at the Retina Foundation is supported by both public and private sector funds. Financial support is provided in the form of research grants and private donations. We count on the National Institute of Health, National Eye Institute, Food and Drug Administration, Genentech, Allergan, and the W. W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation as some of our many valued giving partners.

Understanding AMD

Could there be a genetic link to AMD?
We are studying patients with AMD to determine if their genetics play a role in developing the disease. Blood samples are taken from the patient to use for isolating their DNA, and extracting specific genes, to better understand if there are underlying reasons for AMD. Patients, and their families, undergo a complete genetic analysis to aide scientists in genetic mutation research, allowing for the identification of families with increased risk of developing AMD. Upon request the results will be reviewed with the patient.

Role of Drusen in the progression of AMD.
Age-related macular degeneration can be detected in a routine eye exam. One of the most common early signs of macular degeneration is the presence of drusen — tiny yellow deposits under the retina — or pigment clumping. Research is looking at the role drusen degeneration plays in AMD.

Drusen explained in detail can be seen at the following link:

Tracking the progression of AMD.
Our research team has developed an app that can be downloaded to your iPad or iPhone to monitor the progression of vision loss in patients with AMD, diabetic retinopathy, and other inherited eye diseases. The app, and our new Physician Portal, were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The app can be downloaded with a prescription from your eye doctor. Information documented by the App, or Portal, can be sent to physician members of the care team for treatment adjustments.

Obtaining clearer images of the retina.
The retina (back layer of the eye), is measured using an electroretinogram, or ERG, for AMD patients. This test is similar to an EKG for the eye. Currently, we are working on a project that would allow even better images into the eye.

Finding and analyzing flaws on the surface of the retina.
We are studying the topography and thickness of the retina in older adults with AMD. To measure the topography of the retina, in the development of AMD, scientists are using advanced mathematical models, projection algorithms, and OCT retinal images. Researchers continue to work on advanced methods of measuring the eye.

Natural history study for dry AMD.
Working alongside 19 other sites around the world, we are following individuals with dry AMD for the next 5 years (2018-2022). The purpose of this study is to understand how dry AMD develops and how it might be treated. This study is sponsored by the National Eye Institute (NEI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Health and Human Services, USA, and the Ryan Initiative for Macular Research (RIMR).

* This study is currently seeking and enrolling participants.
* Patients with early AMD, or adults over 55 years of age, interested in being a control subject for this study should contact Renee Denlar at rdenlar@retinafoundation.org, or Kim Cummings at kcummings@retinafoundation.org to learn more.

Researching AMD

Drug delivery device for AMD.
Our researchers are working to develop a drug delivery device for patients with AMD. It is a small Polymer device that slowly releases therapeutic drugs as needed over a period of weeks, months or years as prescribed by your physician. The device is placed on the outer part of the eye and does not interfere with patient vision or comfort. The device can remain in place for a long period of time as prescribed by the physician care team. Placement of the implant on the surface of the eye, rather than inside the eye, allows for long-term drug delivery to the eye. This innovative drug delivery device allows physicians to administer medication delivery in a less invasive way, and better manage the disease.

Treating AMD

Injections of medicine into the eye.
There is no cure, or treatment, for dry AMD at this time. Individuals diagnosed with advanced wet AMD can receive injections of therapeutic drugs in the eye to slow the progression of vision loss. Ninety-five percent of AMD patients are classified as dry AMD. Our researchers are working diligently to find treatments. Funding for this research is a crucial part of discovering treatments. Patients that are able to receive therapeutic injections will seek treatment with their eye doctor.

Patient-Centered Research

The Clinical Center of Innovation for Age-Related Macular Degeneration was supported by an initial $2.5 million dollar grant from the W. W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation at the Communities Foundation of Texas, and an Anonymous $1 million dollar gift. The Clinical Center uses a patient centered approach that involves a referral to the Clinical Center from an eye doctor. Our researchers then communicate the patient’s results from their in-depth vision evaluation back to the referring eye doctor. The eye doctor will follow-up with the patient to implement a future treatment plan based on the results. The Clinical Center is focused on exploring and developing individualized treatment for patients who are in different stages of AMD.

Visit www.innovationamd.org to learn more

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