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Age-related macular degeneration is something you need to treat quickly to prevent blindness but will invasive procedures really help in the long-run or will it just delay the inevitable? We will cover some of the main therapies and their results.

Macular degeneration is a disease the leads to severe vision loss and can make you legally blind [1]. It is often considered to be the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide and it is something that becomes more common as you age [2]. To put matters simply, if you do not intervene and seek immediate help for you macular degeneration, you will not be able to see. How quickly this happens depends on what type of macular degeneration you are suffering from. The main difference between wet and dry macular degeneration is exactly that. Dry macular degeneration is the gradual loss of vision due to a lack of blood to your eye while wet macular degeneration is due to too much blood and vision loss will occur within a matter of months [3]. Thankfully, some age-related macular degeneration treatments are available, but in reality, how effective are age-related macular degeneration treatments? 

Treatment Effectiveness:  Laser Photocoagulation 

When decided on what macular degeneration treatment to do when you have AMD, the only treatment options worth considering are laser photocoagulation and anti-VEGF therapy. Medications and lifestyle modifications will not be enough at this stage of the disease to improve your condition so it is time to choose between two anxiety-inducing procedures to prevent blindness and these will be the two therapies we explore when determining which can be more effective. To prevent confusion, these treatments are normally used immediately for patients suffering from wet age-related macular degeneration because the visual acuity decreases more rapidly in this condition so decisions need to be made quicker. 

The first therapy we will consider here is laser photocoagulation for neo-vascular age-related macular degeneration (wet macular degeneration.) This is a pretty straightforward operation. The ophthalmologist will use a laser beam and burn blood vessels to prevent them from growing further, with the aid of mirrors and cameras of course [4]. It may sound tempting already but let's see if it even works. 

There are numerous subcategories now available that you can discuss with your ophthalmologist depending on the state and severity of your wet macular degeneration to reduce the size and heat of the laser to prevent any unnecessary risk [5]. This is a treatment option for patients also suffering from diabetic retinopathies because these two conditions have extremely similar mechanisms of damage to the eye. Patients with each disease will have blood vessels encroach on their retinas and maculas so lasers are needed to burn them away from interfering with our eyesight. 

In one study done to determine the long-term effectiveness of laser photocoagulation, researchers found participants who had participated in earlier studies of photocoagulation therapy to determine their visual acuity 13 to 19 years after their initial procedure. In total, 214 patients were still alive and it was determined that 42 percent of patients had visual acuity of 20/20 or better, 84 percent had visual acuity of 20/40 and only 20 percent had moderate vision loss in one eye for cases of diabetic retinopathy. [6] No studies could be found for patients suffering exclusively from age-related macular degeneration because this is not a first-line therapy but you can see that burning blood vessels with a laser is an effective way of at least preserving vision. 

Future investigations are currently being designed to determine if lasers can be more fine-tuned to handle the more delicate anatomy of the macula to be an effective treatment option as well but for now, the long-term effectiveness for laser photocoagulation is in AMD patients is still unknown. [7]

Treatment Effectiveness:  Anti-VEGF Therapy 

As we can see, laser photocoagulation can be considered as an age-related macular degeneration treatment but there are too many doubts to consider it the "gold-standard" to help patients maintain their visual acuity. Let's explore if Anti-VEGF therapy can be any more promising. 

Thankfully, Anti-VEGF therapy (standing for anti-vascular endothelial growth factor) is a much more effective treatment option for patients with macular degeneration. In one study, patients suffering from AMD were 3 to 10 times more likely to regain visual acuity of 15 or more letters compared to patients in the control group who did not receive Anti-VEGF therapy. It was also determined that Anti-VEGF therapy worked nearly 4 times better than laser photocoagulation therapy at maintaining visual precision after 1 year of therapy. [8] That is a pretty definitive answer for you. 

If you still are questioning how effective are age-related macular degeneration treatments like anti-VEGF in the long-term, I can answer that for you as well. In another study, it was determined that participants who had received anti-VEGF therapy had at least 20/40 vision more than 50 percent of the time when examined 5 years later [9]. This is a magnificent result considering patients with wet age-related macular degeneration are blind within a matter of months typically so even simple corrective lenses for patients is a welcomed prognosis. This is why anti-VEGF is considered to be the gold-standard for macular degeneration treatment. 

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