DOES LASER TREATMENT HELP DRY MACULAR DEGENERATION?
Because Macular Degeneration can have such severe visual consequences, patients are always eager to try the latest, greatest treatment. Unfortunately, under critical evaluation, scientific research often does not substantiate the claims.
As a case in point, the National Eye Institute recently completed the Complications of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Prevention Trial (CAPT), to determine whether application of low-intensity laser treatment of eyes with drusen in the macula can prevent later complications of age-related macular degeneration and thereby preserve visual function.
Complications resulting from age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of severe vision loss among people aged 65 and over in both the United States and Western countries. Although Dry Macular Degeneration can cause severe vision loss, it more commonly causes mild or no vision loss. The risk is that Dry Macular Degeneration can progress to Wet Macular Degeneration. More than 90% of macular degeneration patients with severe vision loss have Wet (also known as Neovascular) Macular Degeneration. The word, “neovascular,” refers to the development of new, abnormal blood vessels in the back of the eye, below the retina, that leak blood, plasma and protein.
An early sign of Dry Macular Degeneration is the formation of drusen, yellow deposits beneath the retina. Eyes with drusen that are large are at increased risk for developing the vision threatening complications of Wet Macular Degeneration. Some investigators had previously reported that laser photocoagulation causes a reduction in large drusen. The National Eye Institute (NIH) chose to evaluate this claim.
Patients recruited for the NIH study had to have at least 10 large drusen per eye and were considered to be at high risk for the development of Wet Macular Degeneration.
After 5 years, both the group treated with low intensity laser as well as the group not treated with laser had a 13% incidence of developing Wet Macular Degeneration and a 7.5% incidence of developing a severe form of Dry Macular Degeneration known as Geographic Atrophy.
The results of the study were clear.
The National Eye Institute announced that low intensity laser treatment did not demonstrate a clinically significant benefit on vision in eyes of people with bilateral large drusen.