Treatments and Cures: Too Good to Be True?
I’m guessing you've heard the phrase, “If it’s too good to be true then it probably is.” In terms of macular degeneration treatments, that’s certainly applicable to many so-called cures and treatments. Although there’s some exciting research being done, there are no proven cures or treatments except for wet AMD where anti-VEGF injections are used to preserve visual acuity.
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Before trying anything, always talk to your eye specialist and medical doctor especially if you have other health issues and take medications. Some of the unproven substances and procedures interact with other diseases and drugs. Also, it’s a good idea to use one of the online medical and medication information services to check these interactions and see if there are any precautions. Some of these services are: drugs.com or rxlist.com
Risks of straying
Self-treating any eye condition or avoiding or delaying standard care can have SERIOUS consequences. For example, if you have wet AMD and delay or skip injections to try something unproven, you are risking vision loss. The proven treatments for wet AMD are typically started when dry turns to wet and then continued when there is new activity.
Just because something is considered ‘natural’ as in the case of vitamins, minerals, plants/herbal extracts, it doesn't mean it’s safe or safe for everyone. The AREDS2 supplement was developed through extensive research. However, the 400 mgs of Vitamin E it contains can be a problem for some people. For those taking a blood thinner or who have diabetes or cardiovascular disease, there are risks of increased bleeding (blood thinners) or increased risk of heart failure (diabetes or cardiovascular disease).
Why research is important
Why do we keep emphasizing the need for substances and procedures to be proven through research which includes pre-clinical (done before they can be tested on humans) and clinical trials? If everything we put in or do to our body has risks, how can we know if these 'alternative treatments' are safe and effective? They have to be thoroughly tested through clinical trials with people.
Clinical trial phases
Clinical trials test substances and procedures through a series of phases:
- Phase 1/Phase I - Tests for safety - any side effects or adverse events - with a small number of people.
- Phase 2/Phase II - Continues to look at Phase 1 issues and tests the effectiveness on a larger number of people.
- Phase 3/Phase III - Adds more participants and looks again at how well it works and whether the benefits outweigh the risks. If the substance or procedure passes Phase 3, it goes to the FDA for approval.
- Phase 4/Phase IV - Once it's FDA approved, the substance or procedure can be marketed. Data is gathered from their use.
The purpose of research
I hope this helps you understand that this process was designed to protect us from being harmed while addressing a problem we have. It's not perfect, but if done by qualified experts in the field, it provides guidelines for us as to the safety and effectiveness of what we use.
It is important to be specific when we investigate the use of a substance or procedure. With any of the unproven-for-MD treatments, there may be many claims, but we must ask: Do they address the process and symptoms of macular degeneration? It's not enough that something improves blood flow to the retina, for example. We have to ask whether it actually affects the process and progression of macular degeneration where blood flow is only one aspect.
Here's a list of some of the current 'treatments' for macular degeneration that have not been put through the research process thoroughly enough. Some have been studied but with small groups of people for a short period of time. That's not enough to assure us that something is safe and effective.
- Stem Cells - Stem cell treatments are currently being researched with promising results but there are no safe and effective stem cell treatments available outside of clinical trials. You can find cases of people whose vision was damaged by unproven stem cell treatments sold (often charging lots of money) by doctors and clinics.
- CBD Oil
That's it for now, but there are others including putting mustard in one's belly button which is used in Eastern countries for a wide variety of ailments. There are vague claims that it will "improve your vision,"
Remember: If it's too good to be true...
Do you still drive?