Vim & Vigor - Fall 2021 - 51

51
Unraveling
Macular
Degeneration
This year marks a major leap for age-related
macular degeneration, or AMD. A clinical trial
will begin enrolling people who have this
vision-stealing condition. Though more than
100 clinical trials for AMD have failed over
the last 20 years, this one is different : Experts
fi nally have a better understanding of the
mechanism underlying AMD and are testing a
drug that blocks these processes.
" Macular degeneration is a tough nut to
crack, and hopefully we're closer to cracking
the nut, " says Jayakrishna Ambati, MD, vice
chairman for research of the UVA Department
of Ophthalmology and founding director of
UVA's Center for Advanced Vision Science.
With past unsuccessful clinical trials, Dr.
Ambati explains, " we were really in the dark as
to what causes macular degeneration, so we
were trying various drugs without a rationale
from a scientifi c standpoint. Now, we have a
clear understanding of what's actually going
on with this disease. "
What's more, the drug that Dr. Ambati will
WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR VISION
Follow these tips from Dr. Cusick:
1
ENJOY FRUITS, VEGETABLES AND FISH. Dark leafy greens are
great for the eyes. Studies show that people who eat at least two servings
a week of fi sh have a signifi cantly lower risk of developing macular
degeneration. (Learn the best foods to keep your vision sharp at
uvahealth.com/food-for-eyes.)
2
AVOID EXCESSIVE SUN EXPOSURE. Light over long periods can
be stressful to the retina. When out in the sun, wear a hat and sunglasses.
3 STOP SMOKING. Smoking is probably the biggest association with
macular degeneration.
4 STAY ACTIVE. Even moderate levels of exercise can help keep eyes
healthy. For the fi rst time, researchers have hard evidence from the lab
that exercise can slow or prevent the development of macular degeneration
and may benefi t other common causes of vision loss, such as
glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. (Learn more at uvahealth.com/
exercise-for-eyes.)
5
KEEP BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS CONTROLLED if you have type 1
or 2 diabetes. Th ough macular degeneration is the most common vision
impairment in people older than 65, diabetic retinopathy is the most
common cause of blindness in those ages 16 to 65.
6
GET REGULAR EYE EXAMS. Retinal conditions can't be diagnosed at
a primary care offi ce. Optometrists and ophthalmologists have special
equipment to look at retina health. Get an exam every fi ve years starting
at age 20. At age 40, get a baseline test and then an eye exam every two to
four years. Aſt er age 65, get an exam every one to two years. *
test is a less toxic version of a group of lifesaving
medications for people with HIV. Dr.
Ambati's research team and collaborators
worldwide looked at health insurance records
of hundreds of millions of people taking HIV
drugs and found that many of them never
developed AMD or diabetes. HIV drugs should
not be used to treat AMD, he says.
" It's fascinating how uncovering the intricate
biology of genetics and combining it
with big data archaeology can propel insights
into new medicines, " Dr. Ambati says. He's
hopeful that his life's work will fi nally combat
the disease.
" It doesn't just steal a person's vision, " he
says. " It steals their independence and joy
and robs them of their humanity. We hope to
improve not only vision but a person's quality
of life. "
Learn more about his research at
uvahealth.com/eye-research.
Look Out for
These Signs
In early stages, age-related macular degeneration
may have no symptoms. But according to
the American Society of Retina Specialists,
common signs include:
Warping or wavy lines
Blurred central vision
Decrease in brightness of colors
See an eye specialist right away if you have
symptoms. Learn more at uvahealth.com/amd.
VIM & VIGOR FALL 2021
PHOTOS BY UVA HEALTH AND GETTY IMAGES
http://www.uvahealth.com/food-for-eyes http://www.uvahealth.com/eye-research http://uvahealth.com/exercise-for-eyes http://uvahealth.com/exercise-for-eyes http://www.uvahealth.com/amd

Vim & Vigor - Fall 2021

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