Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Is There a Cure for Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a common eye condition; in fact, AMD is one of the most common causes of vision loss in individuals over the age of 50.1 It is a progressive condition, which means it gets worse over time and does not regress or get better at all. Macular degeneration may progress very slowly, or it may progress more quickly. There are steps you can take that might help slow the progression of the disease, but this is not guaranteed. As with any chronic, progressive health condition, while there is no cure, there are treatments available that can help address and minimize symptoms, potentially slow progression, and help you lead a full life.

Immunotherapy

The complement cascade, which is part of the immune system response, has been connected with AMD through genetic studies, as well as the finding of deposits of complement proteins in retinas affected by AMD.2 Clinical trials are being done on drugs called complement inhibitors, and while some have failed, they have yielded new information about specific complement proteins such as Complement Factor H (CFH), Complement factor B (CFB), and others. One protein called C3 may be involved in signaling retinal cells and recruiting white blood cells, both of which can worsen AMD.2 While there is currently no commercially available immunotherapy for AMD, numerous clinical trials are still underway and progress is being made.

Stem-cell therapies

Multiple trials of stem-cell therapies are also being researched, but are still in the very early stages of clinical trials, and more information is needed in order to know whether this will be effective and feasible for treating patients with AMD.3

Genetics

For a disease like Stargardt disease, which is inherited, research is being done on genes that are associated with vision disorders and inherited eye diseases. Particular attention has been paid to the ABCA4 gene, which is associated with Stargardt disease, and research is being done on new mutations of the gene that might be contributing to the development of the disease.4 By learning more about the gene and various mutations, better treatments and a potential cure might be discovered.

Clinical trials

You might want to talk with your doctor about whether there are any clinical trials going on for your type of macular degeneration, and whether you might be a candidate for participation. Clinical trials are research studies that look at a medical, surgical, or behavioral intervention on a specific disease process.5 They are often done to see if a drug or medical device is safe or effective, or to identify potential side effects. There are different phases of clinical trials, and they are all monitored very carefully. Each clinical trial has strict guidelines as to who can enroll, with certain criteria such as age, type, and extent of disease, medical history, and so forth. Clinical trials are not right for everyone, and your doctor will be able to let you know if a clinical trial might be appropriate.

What can you do?

As with many chronic conditions and diseases, there is no cure for macular degeneration right now, but new treatments are always being explored. With macular degeneration and especially AMD, the focus is often on early diagnosis and treatment and finding the best treatments for your specific situation, so that you can lead a full life and preserve your vision and quality of life at the same time.

Have conversations

Talk with your doctor about what your treatment options are available, and what fits best with your particular situation. They can also point you in the direction of learning more about what research is being done on the disease and any possible clinical trials. It’s important to note, though, that just because there is no cure, does not mean there’s no hope.

Jaime R. Herndon | December 2018
  1. National Institutes of Health: National Eye Institute. Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration. 2015. https://nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts. Accessed October 19, 2018.
  2. Dunaief J. New Hope for Age-Related Macular Degeneration. BrightFocus Foundation website. 2018. https://www.brightfocus.org/macular/article/new-hope-treating-age-related-macular. Accessed October 19, 2018.
  3. Foundation Fighting Blindness. Eye on the Cure. 2018. http://www.blindness.org/blog/index.php/category/diseases/amd. Accessed October 19. 2018.
  4. Facts About Stargardt Disease. National Eye Institute website. 2015. https://nei.nih.gov/health/stargardt/star_facts. Accessed February 4, 2019.
  5. National Institutes of Health: National Institute on Aging. What Are Clinical Trials and Studies? 2017. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-are-clinical-trials-and-studies. Accessed October 18, 2018.