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Early Screening and Treatment Key to Fighting Macular Degeneration

NEW YORK (Nov 1, 2013)

The future of treatment for macular degeneration is bright, according to ophthalmologist and retina specialist Szilárd Kiss, M.D., an advocate of early screening and a developer of new treatments for the age-related eye disorder.

Szilard Kiss, M.D.
Szilárd Kiss, M.D.

Statistics show that an increasing number of patients are being diagnosed with macular degeneration due to our aging population. "Macular degeneration typically starts to appear after age 50 but the symptoms of blurry vision, decreased vision or wavy lines don't often appear until age 70 or later," said Dr. Kiss.

As the macula deteriorates, the chronic condition gradually causes a loss of clear central vision. When Dr. Kiss explains the disease to his patients, he tells them to think of the eye as a camera. "The lens is in the front and the retina is in the back which is like the film for the camera. Macular degeneration affects the center portion of the retina, or the macula. It is the place where we can see small letters."

Screening for macular degeneration is paramount because early diagnosis and treatment can delay and reduce the severity of the disease. During a screening test, doctors will dilate the eye and examine the back of the eye for macular degeneration. An ophthalmologist can perform a general screening test but patients with a family history or previous diagnosis of macular degeneration should visit a retina specialist like Dr. Kiss. Risk factors for macular degeneration include age, a family history, smoking and heart disease. Dr. Kiss recommends that patients with the condition enjoy a heart-healthy diet of green leafy vegetables and avoid cholesterol-laden foods.

illustrations of eyes with macular degeneration

There are two types of macular degeneration. The less severe and more common one is known as the dry form of macular degeneration. Currently there is no FDA-approved treatment for the dry form but "there are exciting developments in the pipeline," said Dr. Kiss. In fact, Dr. Kiss is currently recruiting patients for phase 2 and phase 3 trials for the dry form of macular degeneration.

The other type, known as the wet form, is more serious and can cause rapid vision loss. Having the dry form is thought to be a major risk factor for developing the wet form. "Medications to maintain and improve vision have revolutionized treatment for the wet form of macular degeneration," said Dr. Kiss. However, treatment for the wet form requires injections into the eye that remain a major challenge for both patients and doctors, he noted. Dr. Kiss and his colleagues are heavily involved in research trials to develop treatments that require fewer injections.

Because patients will not notice a decrease in vision until they have advanced stages of the wet or dry forms of macular degeneration, screening is crucial. With early detection and treatment, "the future is very bright," said Dr. Kiss.

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