(Philadelphia, PA) - According to a study that
appears in the November 2006 issue of the journal Ophthalmology,
researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of
Medicine and 21 other clinical centers have found that
low-intensity laser treatment - thought to be potentially beneficial
in slowing or preventing the loss of vision from age-related macular
degeneration (AMD) - is ineffective in preventing complications
of AMD or vision loss. This is the major conclusion of the Complications
of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Prevention Trial (CAPT) -a research
study supported by grants from the National Eye Institute (NEI)
of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
According to the NEI, AMD is a disease associated with aging that
gradually destroys sharp, central vision. Central vision is needed
for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading
and driving. People with early AMD have drusen - yellow deposits
under the retina. The presence of drusen is the first sign of early
AMD, and eyes with large drusen are at an increased risk of progressing
to advanced AMD, with accompanying loss of vision.
“For the past 35 years, ophthalmologists have wondered about
the advisability of employing preventive laser treatment for patients
with large drusen who are at a high risk for vision loss and AMD,”
said Stuart L. Fine, MD, CAPT chairman and chair,
Penn’s Department of Ophthalmology; Director, Scheie Eye Institute.
“We found that laser treatment had neither a clinically significant
beneficial nor harmful effect for these patients. There is no evidence
from this trial to suggest that people with large drusen should
seek preventive laser treatment.”
This was the first large-scale, multicenter study to evaluate the
efficacy and safety of this technique. The study followed 1,042
participants over the age of 50 (average age of 71) who had 10 or
more large drusen and visual acuity of 20/40 or better in each eye.
One eye of each participant was treated, while the other eye was
observed throughout the five years of the trial. After five years,
20.5% of the treated eyes and 20.5% of the untreated eyes had lost
three or more lines of visual acuity on a standard eye chart.
Currently, the only established way to decrease the risk of vision
loss in people with large drusen is daily supplements of vitamins
and minerals. The NEI-sponsored Age-Related Eye Diseases Study (AREDS)
reported in 2001 that a formulation which includes anti-oxidant
vitamins (beta-carotene, Vitamin C and Vitamin E) and appropriate
doses of zinc and copper could reduce the relative risk of progression
from early to late AMD by 25% and reduce the relative risk of vision
loss by 19%. The NEI recently launched AREDS2 to see if a modified
combination of vitamins, minerals, and fish oil can further slow
the progression of vision loss for AMD.
PENN Medicine is a $2.9 billion enterprise
dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical
research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists
of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in
1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of
Pennsylvania Health System.
Penn's School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt
of NIH research funds; and ranked #3 in the nation in U.S.News &
World Report's most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical
schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the
School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education
and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and
leaders of academic medicine.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three
hospitals, all of which have received numerous national patient-care
honors [Hospital of theUniversity of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania
Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical
Center]; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network;
two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home care and hospice.