Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD is an incurable eye disease that is the leading cause of blindness for those aged 55 and older in the United States, affecting more than 10 million Americans. As people age, their chances for developing eye diseases increase dramatically. Unfortunately, the specific factors that cause macular degeneration are not conclusively known. AMD is the leading cause of blindness affecting more Americans than cataracts and glaucoma combined. 

How does AMD affect vision?

AMD is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. The retina's central portion, known as the macula, is responsible for focusing central vision in the eye, and it controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail.

What does the future hold?

Recent studies indicate that by the year 2025, the population of people over the age of 65 in the United States will be six times higher than in 1990. The reason - "baby boomers" are aging and overall life expectancy is increasing. Since many people diagnosed with macular degeneration are over age 55, the number of cases of macular degeneration in the U.S. will increase significantly as baby boomers age. As the aging population grows, macular degeneration will soon take on aspects of an epidemic.

What is Schepens Eye Research Institute doing about it?

For many years, AMD research has been a top priority at the Institute. Recent research includes: 

  • Identification of a growth factor that causes unwanted blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) in the “wet” form of AMD, leading to the creation of the newest generation of treatments – anti-angiogenic drugs like Macugen© and Lucentis©.

  • Development of tomorrow’s treatment, the transplantation of retinal stem cells, which has already been shown to be effective in animal studies.

  • Investigation of possible therapies for the “dry” form of AMD, for which there is currently none available.

  • Optical methodology for detecting very early signs of AMD, so that patients can be tracked and treated before serious damage occurs.

  • Invention and refinement of the scanning laser ophthalmoscope, the breakthrough innovation that allows doctors to view retinal defects.

  • Development of portable low-vision aids to enable patients to read, watch TV, navigate walking, and sometimes even drive.