Damage from wet AMD usually cannot be reversed, but further damage can be prevented with treatment. For some types of wet AMD, a high-energy laser beam can be used to destroy the new abnormal blood vessels. This therapy is called photocoagulation. For other types of AMD, a cold laser combined with a light-sensitizing drug called verteporfin can be used to close new abnormal blood vessels. This is called photodynamic therapy. Surgery is another treatment option for some types of wet AMD.

Two drugs have been approved by the FDA to slow or block the growth of new blood vessels, thus preserving sight. Both are injected into the eye. Pegaptanib is a drug that is injected every six weeks; ranibizumab is injected monthly.

Another drug, bevacizumab, originally approved to treat colorectal cancer, has shown in a preliminary study to reduce leakage from abnormal blood vessels in the retina. Many other drugs are being studied.

Living with AMD

"People who lose their central vision to macular degeneration can usually be helped by low-vision specialists," Dr. Richer says. "With the help of special low-vision devices, such as magnifying devices, large-print reading materials, or closed-circuit computers, most people with macular degeneration can learn to use their remaining vision."