from Geriatric Pharmacy Intern, Ariel Vega, PharmD(c)
University of Florida College of Pharmacy
According to the latest statistics, more than 1 million individuals in the US suffer from lack of vision due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disorder characterized by a progressive deterioration of the retina. Several preventable and non-preventable risk factors may contribute to the prevalence of this disease. Preventable risk factors include smoking, sunlight exposure and obesity, whereas non-preventable risk factors involve race (whites are more prone to suffer from AMD), light eye color, family history and sex (women are at a higher risk). AMD is a horrible disease that results in a state of legal blindness for the patient who suffers with it with all the consequence that derive from this, namely, inability to drive, frequent falls, inadvertent hits and depression, among others.
So far, there is no treatment that can stop the advance of AMD. However, several treatments may contribute to delay the onset and final stage of this disease. Some therapies, such as LUCENTIS™, are under trial and have had very promising results. Supplementation with vitamins and minerals has proven effective as well. In this field, the Queen's University Belfast academics have made some progress with a supplement they call CARMA, a combination of caroteneoids and co-antioxidants. Besides containing zinc, and vitamins C and E, this product includes lutein and zeaxanthin, two of several components that are related to the pigmentation of the eye. It has been shown that an increase in the pigmentation of the eye decreases the risk of developing AMD, thus making the amount of pigment in the eye a marker for the advance of this disease. This amount continued to decline in the placebo group of participants in the study using CARMA, but was preserved in those with AMD that took CARMA. Despite this, more research needs to be done before getting to a definitive conclusion, there is hope at the end of the road that AMD will soon be a treatable disease and not a blinding disease anymore.