Eye Center to Offer Public Symposium on Macular Degeneration, Leading
Cause of Blindness and Visual Impairment in Those Over 65
A growing concern
of the burgeoning aging population, age-related macular degeneration
(AMD) is an eye disease that poses many questions for those afflicted
and their loved ones.
AMD is the leading cause
of visual impairment and blindness in Americans over 65 years of age.
It affects the sharp, central vision required for "straight ahead" activities
such as reading, driving, and recognizing faces. Risk factors for developing
macular degeneration include, in this order: age, smoking and heredity.
The Emory Eye Center will
provide some answers to this troubling eye disease on Friday, October
25, at a public symposium held at The Carter Center, One Copenhill Drive,
Atlanta, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Retinal specialists and Emory Eye Center's
low vision director will present current treatments, findings and options.
Admission is free with a
required reservation. Interested participants may call 404-778-3750
to secure a spot. Seating is limited to the first 450 who call.
What Is Macular Degeneration?
MD is often called "rusting
of the retina." There are two main types, dry and wet. The dry or atrophic
type is the most common -- affecting nearly 90 percent of all cases
-- and results as the macula's tissues age and break down, causing a
gradual vision loss. The wet or exudative form of macular degeneration
affects 10-15 percent of individuals with the disease and can significantly
damage vision. It results when abnormal blood vessels form and leak
fluid and blood beneath the retina. The choroid's blood vessels, combined
with tissue, can form a scar-like membrane under the retina and block
The three stages of AMD include:
- Early AMD: Patients with
early AMD have, in one or both eyes, either several small drusen (yellow
deposits under the retina) or a few medium-sized drusen; these patients
do not have vision loss from AMD.
- Intermediate AMD: Patients
with intermediate AMD have, in one or both eyes, either many medium-sized
drusen or one or more large drusen; in these people, there is usually
little or no vision loss.
- Advanced AMD: In addition
to drusen, patients with advanced AMD have, in one or both eyes, either:
a breakdown of light-sensitive cells and supporting tissue in the central
retinal area (advanced dry form); or (2) abnormal and fragile blood
vessels under the retina that can leak fluid or bleed (wet form).
These two forms (wet or dry)
of advanced AMD can cause serious vision loss. Scientists are unsure
why an increase in the size and number of drusen can lead to advanced
AMD, but patients who have advanced AMD in one eye are at especially
high risk for developing it in the other eye.
Last year's nationwide study
in which Emory participated, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study or AREDS,
showed that a dietary supplement of high levels of antioxidants and
zinc significantly reduced the risk of advanced AMD and its associated
vision loss in patients at high risk of developing advanced stages of
AMD. While these findings were exciting, these supplements are not right
for everyone, says Paul Sternberg, Jr., MD, head of Emory's Retina Section.
"In our symposium we will
explore in depth the treatment that today's patient might pursue. Hopefully,
our participants will come away with increased knowledge about this
condition and the ability to make choices about their medical options.
In addition, there are a number of investigational treatments including
retinal translocation surgery and a variety of promising pharmacological
treatments," he concludes.
Today's active intervention
options for AMD include laser treatment, photo-dynamic therapy (PDT)
and surgical removal of scarring membranes or neo-vascularization. Palliative
therapy includes the use of low vision devices such as the JORDY, a
head-mounted binocular-type vision device that includes a computer chip,
enabling patients to "see" objects that are magnified for them 25 times.
Topics addressed at Emory's
symposium will include: the basics of AMD (dry and wet); treatments
-- conventional and surgical; vitamins; new pharmacological treatments;
low vision rehabilitation; and frontiers, including transplantation,
retinal chip and gene therapy.
Joining Dr. Sternberg in
the symposium will be Thomas M. Aaberg, Sr., MD, Director of the Emory
Eye Center and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, himself a retina
physician; Daniel F. Martin, MD, retinal physician and researcher, Enrique
Garcia, MD/PhD, a retina physician and researcher; Dean Jones, PhD,
Department of Biochemistry, Emory University; and Ned Witkin, OD, Director
of the Low Vision Clinic at Emory.
This event is underwritten
by pharmaceutical companies Alcon, Bausch & Lomb and Novartis.