A new laser treatment for age-related macular degeneration, approved on April 13 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is now offered at the Maryland Center for Eye Care, the faculty ophthalmology practice of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
The treatment, known as Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), uses the intravenous drug verteporfin in combination with a low-intensity laser to halt the destructive effect of abnormal blood vessels under the retina, found in the "wet" form of macular degeneration. About 20 percent of patients with macular degeneration have the "wet" type, which is the most severe form of the disease. The abnormal vessels can damage the macular region of the retina and, if left untreated, can result in blindness.
The PDT treatment, which is painless and takes only a few minutes to perform, is available to patients at the Maryland Center for Eye Care's location in downtown Baltimore. It will also be offered soon at the center's suburban locations in Owings Mills and Shipley's Choice.
"Photodynamic therapy is an innovative approach, which gives us another option to offer our patients," says Scott Steidl, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of the Retina Service. He and Eric Jones, M.D., also an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the School of Medicine, are trained to perform the new laser procedure.
During the therapy, the patient first receives an intravenous infusion of the drug verteporfin. The drug is selectively taken up by abnormal blood vessels in the eye, but it is not activated until it is exposed to the laser light. When activated, the drug causes closure of abnormal vessels, preventing further damage to the macula.
Photodynamic therapy is also being used at the University of Maryland Medical Center to help patients with lung and esophageal cancer.
About 200,000 Americans go blind each year from macular degeneration. It is the leading cause of blindness and there has not been an effective treatment. But experts say this is an exciting time, because more therapies are becoming available. "We expect Photodynamic therapy to benefit a carefully selected group of patients. Other new therapies also becoming available now will enable us to provide relief for the first time to many people with macular degeneration" says Dr. Steidl.
Those include two other laser techniques and a new surgical procedure:
At the Maryland Center for Eye Care, Dr. Steidl and Dr. Jones tailor a unique treatment plan for each individual patient with macular degeneration.
"Our approach is to have every type of therapy available and provide comprehensive, individualized treatment plans that address the specific needs of our patients," Dr. Steidl says.
For patient inquiries, call 1-800-492-5538 or click here to make an appointment.