AMD view

One step closer to injection-free treatment for AMD

A new treatment method for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may soon be available—with no eye injections involved.

“Optometry will essentially become a gatekeeper in the identification of wet AMD.”

While other AMD treatment research involves eye drops loaded with the drug Avastin, new research looks at an intravenous method of suppressing abnormal blood vessels.

Scientists at Trinity College Dublin are examining IL-18, a pro-inflammatory protein and component of the immune system that slows the production of damaging blood cells behind the retina at the back of the eye. Specifically, they have tested whether IL-18 can be administered noninvasively.

"This is the first way to look at intravenous management of AMD," says Jay Haynie, O.D., AOA member and the executive clinical director for Retina and Macula Specialists in Washington state.

Intravenous administration of treatment comes with potential risks, but there are also possible benefits.

"The greatest advantage of treating AMD intravenously is that it can be effective in both eyes at various stages of the disease," Dr. Haynie says. "Having an alternative therapy with a different modality could potentially be extremely beneficial for patients with AMD."

Optometrists could become vital in AMD treatment

Although eye clinicians know a great deal about AMD, the disease has variable presentations. No two patients are alike, which is why multiple treatment options are key.

"In the future, I believe AMD will be treated with four different modalities: intravenous, injectable treatment by retina surgeons, eye drops, and oral medication," Dr. Haynie says.

Very few states allow optometrists to access intravenous treatment, but optometrists would have access to topical and oral treatment methods.

New modalities for AMD treatment would allow ODs to be more involved—including better education, earlier diagnosis, co-management of patients with retina specialists and identification of patients who will benefit from varied treatments.

"Optometry has become a gatekeeper in identification of wet AMD patients and will likely become more involved in the care of patients as new treatment options become available," Dr. Haynie says.

In addition, the AOA strongly encourages all adults to have comprehensive eye exams so ODs can properly diagnose and treat AMD as early as possible. Education for patients with AMD is also critical, in addition to the patient's moderation of their own vision changes between visits.

Find AMD patient education materials in English and Spanish at the AOA Marketplace.

April 21, 2014

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