Age-Related Macular Degeneration: a not-so-familiar term for many, but a common condition nonetheless. Take note of the macula in the anatomy of the eye to your right — the macula is a small, sensitive area near the center of the retina along the back of the eye, responsible for allowing us to see objects that are in front of us. It is at the center of our visual field. Comprised of millions of light-detecting cells, the macula is a critical in providing sharp and detailed central vision for everyday tasks such as reading, cooking, and driving.
So, what happens when this area becomes damaged?
When the macula begins to degenerate, blurry, distorted, or dark areas in the center of vision occur, which can often progress to blindness in the elderly. While it can occur in younger patients, Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness among Americans 60 years of age and older. For American patients between 75 to 85 years of age, the prevalence of AMD increases to 30%. While painless, this disease can progress slow for some, and fast for others. Risk factors for AMD include:
- Smoking: Scientific research has supported that smokers have at least double the risk of AMD when compared to non-smokers.
- Race: Caucasians are more commonly found to be at risk for AMD when compared to African-Americans or Hispanics and Latinos.
- Genetics and Family History: Scientific research has identified 20 genes that can affect the risk of developing AMD, and those who have a family history of AMD are at a higher risk than those without family history.
Early AMD, intermediate AMD, and late AMD are the three stages of severity for the disease. For the late stage, there are two types: dry AMD, where vision loss occurs as a result of the breakdown of light-detecting cells in the macula, and wet AMD, where the macula is damaged as a result of abnormal blood vessels growing and swelling underneath the retina. While it is possible to have both dry and wet AMD, the latter is the more severe condition.
Whether you are afflicted by macular degeneration or are a curious researcher, you may be wondering what treatment methods are offered for this disease. Unfortunately, there is no known cure — however, like insulin for diabetes, there are treatment options available to reduce one’s risk and progression of macular degeneration. Simple lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise can offer as preventative measures, but what is the next step? How can patients afflicted with worsening vision be treated in a visit to their doctor? These are the questions that guided Liberty Vision’s development of the iWand, a treatment device that uses radiation to save loss of vision from wet AMD.
According to Liberty Vision, a company directed by the pioneering medical techniques of CEO, Dr. Paul T. Finger, the iWand “enables practitioners to deliver a prescribed dose of radiation to the macula of affected patients. The iWand features a disc-shaped radioactive element at the distal end of the hand-held delivery system. In addition, the iWand is able to emit multiple points of light from the periphery of the tip that are visible through the sclera (as seen through the pupil). These are used to positively locate the radiation treatment zone relative to the macula. The key benefit this provides to the doctor is an accurate, safe, and effective system for delivering radiation to a targeted zone defined by the shape of radiation source and clearly positionable by viewing the peripheral light points.”
The iWand allows doctors to take a tremendous leap forward in the field of ocular care, not only in the United States, but internationally as well. Indeed, with its most recent patent being registered in Israel, the patented device will be available across the world.
To learn more about the iWand, visit Liberty Vision’s website here. And to stay tuned on all the latest news in ocular care, be sure to keep eyecancer.com in your bookmarks!