Medical Breakthroughs: Fixing Macular Degeneration

BACKGROUND: In the United States, macular degeneration is the leading cause of legal blindness in people over age 50.

There are two main types of age-related macular degeneration: wet and dry. The wet form accounts for only about 10 percent of AMD cases, but it causes 90 percent of all vision loss associated with AMD.

In wet AMD, abnormal vessels begin to grow across and beneath the macula, or the small tissue in the center of the retina at the back of the eye. If left untreated, scar tissue can form and cause permanent vision damage.

STANDARD TREATMENT: In the past, the only treatment that has been shown to be helpful is conventional laser treatment, which essentially cauterizes or burns the tissue. It can be helpful, but if treatment is needed near the central vision; it leaves a permanent scar, which can be disabling.

Another treatment, called photodynamic therapy, does not leave a scar, but it frequently requires multiple treatments. However, in the occult, or hidden, form of wet AMD, these treatments have not been shown to be beneficial.

Now, there may be help for patients with this type of AMD.

TRANSPUPILLARY THERMOTHERAPY: This type of treatment, referred to as TTT, uses a low dose of infrared laser light to gently heat the tissue a few degrees.

"That, over time, facilitates a closure, or a sealing, of leaking blood vessels," said John Olson, M.D., from Central Florida Retina.

The treatment lasts only about one minute and is painless. The effects aren't immediate, however, and it may take several months for the maximum effect to occur. In one study, about 25 percent of patients who were treated actually had an improvement in their vision. Another 50 percent had their vision stabilize, meaning they didn't deteriorate any further.

"To the extent that we can preserve their vision and allow them to do the things that they've planned to do in their retirement is very, very gratifying," said Dr. Olson.


  • New England Eye Center - Boston
  • University of Wisconsin - Madison, WI
  • Central Florida Retinal Consultants - Orlando, FL
  • Retina Associates of Cleveland - Cleveland
  • Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital - New York
  • Cole Eye Institute, Cleveland Clinic -Cleveland
  • Delmarva Vitreoretinal Center - Salisbury, MD
  • University of Minnesota - Minneapolis
  • New York Eye & Ear Infirmary - New York
  • Mayo Clinic - Rochester, MN
  • Scheie Eye Institute - Philadelphia
  • Retina-Vitreous Associates, PC - Nashville, TN
  • Wills Eye Hospital - Philadelphia
  • The Retina Center - Joliet, IL
  • Duke Eye Center - Durham, NC
  • Retina Center- Beverly Hills, CA
  • Sarasota Retina Institute - Sarasota, FL
  • Jules Stein Eye Institute, UCLA - Los Angeles
  • Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center - Lebanon, New Hampshire
  • Schatz, McDonald, Johnson, and Ai San Francisco
  • California Retina Consultants - Santa Barbara, CA
  • Retina Vitreous Center - Ashland, OR


Ginny Bell
Study Coordinator
Central Florida Retina
44 Lake Beauty Drive, Suite 300
Orlando, FL 32806
(800) 255-7188

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