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Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in industrialized countries. The macula provides sharp, central vision. It is the most sensitive part of the retina. Macular degeneration is classified as either Dry or Wet. Dry AMD progresses slowly, whereas Wet AMD may progress quickly and is responsible for 90% of cases of severe vision loss associated with AMD.
Wet AMD is caused by the development of choroidal neovascularization and occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina at the back of the eye. As these new vessels form within or underneath the macula, fluid and blood leak damaging the surrounding retinal architecture. If untreated, this leakage may quickly lead to vision loss within a few months of onset. Currently, there is no cure for the disease.
Wet AMD primarily affects the elderly, who represent an increasingly larger proportion of the industrialized world’s population. Therefore, vision loss associated with Wet AMD is a significant problem. Annually, 200,000 new cases of Wet AMD are diagnosed in North America where there are currently 1.2 million individuals affected. There are approximately 220,000 new cases each year in the EU, and of these 26,000 occur in the UK. According to a study from investigators at Yamagata University Faculty of Medicine, Japan, and others, “Among persons aged 40 to 79 years, the age-specific prevalence of late AMD in Asians was comparable with that reported from white populations.”
Currently, several therapies are available for the treatment of Wet AMD. Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (anti-VEGF) therapy is the existing standard of care for treatment of Wet AMD. These agents are injected directly into the eye each month, or as needed, by a retina specialist.
For more information on Wet AMD, visit these online resources:
US: Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration [NEI Health Information]
UK & Europe: Macular Degeneration – NHS Choices