Age-related macular degeneration is a progressive disease that causes blurring of the central vision. It is the leading cause of serious vision loss in patients over the age of 60. The illness inflicts millions of dollars in costs to healthcare systems around the world. There is currently no cure for the disease, but treatment options can slow the loss of vision it causes. Early detection is the best way to identify the condition in time to limit the effects it has on a patient’s vision.
A new study was performed with the aim of finding new methods of early detection for age-related macular degeneration. The researchers analyzed scans and images of AMD patients for signs or symptoms that may indicate the presence of AMD before it has fully formed.
After analyzing the clinical images, the scientists found that patients with AMD had calcified nodules built-up in the retina. They believe that these calcified nodules increased the risk of advanced progression of age-related macular degeneration by six times, compared to those who did not have them.
Calcifications Cause Irreversible Damage to the Eye
“Our research revealed that early changes in the back of the eye can lead to the build-up of hard mineral deposits, made of calcium and phosphate,” said study author Imre Lengyel. “The build-up of these mineral deposits is an indicator of irreversible damage of the retina.”
These findings could have implications for future treatment options of age-related macular degeneration. With additional research, it may be possible for simple changes in diet to affect the progression of the vision loss, say the study authors, if they can limit the build-up of the calcifications they identified through the retinal scans. The focus of future research will be on what causes these calcifications and how to limit them.
“By fully understanding the causes behind the changing environment in which these large, damaging nodules grow, we could design new ways to intervene with their growth earlier in the disease process than is currently possible,” said study co-author Christine Curcio. “Identification of these risks associated with disease progression in the eye, especially in the retina, could become a diagnostic tool for monitoring the progression of retinal degeneration.”
She added, “This allows ophthalmologists to counsel their patients more wisely and also allow us to think about slowing or halting the progression of disease, earlier in its course.”
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