Macular degeneration, specifically age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK.
There are two primary forms of AMD: dry and wet. While the dry form is more common and progresses slowly, the wet form is more aggressive and can lead to rapid sight loss if left untreated.
One of the primary treatments for wet AMD is regular eye injections. In this article, we will explore what happens if these injections are halted.
Why do some people take eye injections for wet AMD?
To fully comprehend the potential effects of discontinuing eye injections for macular degeneration, it’s crucial first to understand the condition itself and the rationale behind the treatment.
Wet AMD: Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina, leading to leakage of fluid or blood. This leakage distorts vision, causing blind spots and, in severe cases, total sight loss.
Anti-VEGF injections: One of the most effective treatments for wet AMD is injections of anti-VEGF drugs. These drugs, injected directly into the eye, help to reduce the growth of unwanted blood vessels and decrease fluid leakage. This treatment not only halts the progress of the disease but, in some cases, can also lead to improved vision.
The implications of discontinuing treatment
Halting any medical treatment is bound to have consequences, and with AMD, the results can be particularly distressing:
Return of symptoms: One of the most immediate effects of stopping the injections is the potential return of AMD symptoms, which could lead to further deterioration in vision.
Rapid progression: Without the counteraction of anti-VEGF drugs, the disease may progress more rapidly than before, leading to faster sight loss.
Irreversible damage: Over time, the continued growth and leakage from these abnormal blood vessels can cause irreversible damage to the retina and a permanent decline in central vision.
The emotional and practical implications of discontinuing treatment
Stopping treatments can have more than just physical effects; there can also be emotional and practical repercussions:
Psychological impact: Sight is fundamental to our daily lives, and any degradation in vision can have profound psychological consequences. Anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation are commonly reported among individuals with deteriorating vision, especially if they perceive that the decline could have been preventable.
Daily life activities: Reduced vision can hinder daily life activities, such as reading, driving, recognising faces, and navigating unfamiliar areas. This can lead to a decreased sense of independence and reliance on caregivers or family members.
The broader financial implications
Stopping eye injections can also have financial implications:
Increased care costs: As vision deteriorates, there might be a need for increased support and care, leading to higher personal and societal care costs.
Loss of employment: Individuals whose work relies heavily on their vision might find it challenging to maintain their current employment status. The financial strain from a potential job loss can be substantial.
Other preventative measures
While these supplements might play a role in supporting eye health and potentially slowing down the progression of AMD, they are not a replacement for medical treatments like anti-VEGF injections. They might, however, be beneficial as a complementary therapy or for those with dry AMD, which doesn’t yet have a direct treatment.
Eyesight Plus AREDS 2 Vitamins for Eyes: This eye supplement is based on the AREDS2 study – a significant research trial that identified a combination of vitamins and minerals that can reduce the risk of progression in those with intermediate or late-stage AMD. The product contains a mix of antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc, along with other beneficial ingredients like lutein and zeaxanthin.
Smoking is a significant risk factor for AMD. Quitting smoking can reduce the risk of the condition’s onset and progression.
A diet rich in green leafy vegetables, fish, and whole grains can provide nutrients beneficial for eye health.
Protecting the eyes from harmful UV rays by wearing sunglasses can also play a role in preventing further damage.
Always speak to a professional before ending medical treatment
Age-related macular degeneration is a complex condition with multiple factors influencing its progression. While anti-VEGF injections have proven to be an effective treatment for many, the decision to continue or halt treatment should be made in close consultation with a medical professional, taking into account the potential risks and benefits. Dietary supplements and lifestyle changes can provide additional support, but they cannot replace the therapeutic effects of medical treatments. As with any health decision, it’s essential to be well-informed and proactive in seeking the best care and advice.