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Ask an Expert: The Latest Research and Treatment for Macular Degeneration

Essence Johnson, OD, FAAO, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and a diplomate of the American Board of Optometry. Inside and outside of the office, Dr. Johnson is a committed champion, ambassador, and educator of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

This article is the second installment of our "Ask an Expert" series. You can find the first part of this article here.

Q: Should a patient get more than one opinion before starting a treatment plan?

Dr. Johnson: It can be beneficial for a patient to seek a second opinion before starting a treatment plan for macular degeneration, especially if they have concerns or uncertainties about the recommended course of action. A second opinion can provide additional insights, confirm the diagnosis, and help the patient make a more informed decision about their treatment.

Q: Are there any clinical trials that are looking really promising in the field?

Dr. Johnson: There are ongoing studies exploring new treatments and interventions for macular degeneration. Some promising areas of research include:

  • Anti-VEGF therapies – These drugs target vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which contributes to the formation of abnormal blood vessels in wet macular degeneration. Researchers are working on improving the effectiveness and delivery methods of these treatments.1,2
  • Stem cell therapy – Scientists are investigating the potential of stem cells to replace damaged retinal cells and restore vision in people with macular degeneration.3,4
  • Gene therapy – Researchers are exploring ways to correct or modify genes responsible for macular degeneration, potentially preventing or slowing down the progression of the disease.5
  • Complement inhibitors – These drugs target the complement system, a part of the immune system that has been linked to the development of macular degeneration.6

It is essential to discuss potential clinical trials with your eye care provider, as they can help determine if you are eligible and guide you through the process of participating in a study.

Q: How does a doctor know when it’s time to switch or stop a treatment? What factors do they assess?

Dr. Johnson: The decision to switch or stop a treatment for macular degeneration depends on several factors assessed by an eye care provider, including:

  • Treatment response – If the current treatment is not effectively stabilizing or improving the patient's condition, an eye care provider may consider alternative options.
  • Side effects – If a patient experiences significant side effects or complications from the treatment, an eye care provider may decide to switch them to a different therapy or discontinue treatment.
  • Progression of the disease – If the patient's macular degeneration continues to worsen despite treatment, an eye care provider may reevaluate the treatment plan and consider other options.
  • Patient preferences – The patient's preferences and concerns should be taken into account when making decisions about treatment. If the patient is uncomfortable with the current treatment or wishes to explore other options, an eye care provider should discuss alternatives.
  • New research and developments – As new treatments and therapies become available, an eye care provider may recommend switching to a more effective or less invasive option based on the latest evidence and research.

Regular follow-up appointments and monitoring are crucial for assessing the effectiveness of a treatment plan and making adjustments as needed. An eye care provider will evaluate the patient's vision, retinal health, and overall well-being to determine the best course of action.

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