According to a recent research statins (cholesterol lowering agent) can improve the blindness/visual impairment caused by the age related muscular degeneration.

Research is completed at Harvard medical school in US and published online Feb. 4 in the journal EBioMedicine. Regression of some High-Risk Features of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) in Patients Receiving Intensive Statin Treatment

In this study 23 patients were given a high dose (80 milligrams) of atorvastatin (cholesterol lowing drug) once daily.

All of these 23 patients completed at least 12 months of follow up. And these patients were also examined by eye specialists every 3 months. The vision of 10 out of 23 patients improved and fat deposits underneath the retina were cleared using high dose of statins. However the rest of 13 patients did not show any improvement.

  • What is Age Related Macular degeneration?

With the progressing age the back of the eye called retina slowly damages. Macular is actually the centre of the retina responsible for vision. So AMD is basically the damage of the central part of the retina (back layer of eye) with progressing age. Which cause blurring of eye sight, painless loss of vision and affects the ability to read ‘drive and recognising the face.

Diagram

eye(1)

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is still the major cause of visual impairment and vision loss in the developed countries. Also it is more common in white population as compared to blacks.

Types Of AMD

There are two types of AMD

  • 1-Wet AMD(Rare)
  • 2-Dry AMD(More common and occurs in about 90 percent of the patients)

There is a small layer of cells underneath the retina called RPE (retinal pigment epithelium) which supplies oxygen and other nutrition to the retina and removes the unwanted or waste products from the retina down to choroid (Blood vessels). Macular degeneration occurs when the waste products from retina start collecting underneath the RPE making the yellow deposits collection .

Risk factors

  • Smoking
  • Advancing age
  • Family history

Symptoms

  • Gradual loss of vision usually happens in Dry AMD
  • Sudden visual impairment/loss of central vision usually happens in Wet AMD

Treatment

There is no cure and aim is to preserve the vision as long as possible. There are a number of treatment options available for wet AMD such as in the form of injections, laser and photodynamic therapy but none is available for dry AMD.

How To Improve Vision: Prevention

Following factors can help in the prevention of the AMD

Smoking cessation

Limited alcohol intake

Health diet including more fruits and vegetables

Exercise

Sunglasses when outdoors to protect the eyes from Uv rays.

Analysis

This research was done only on 23 patients which is a small number and it was a non-randomised (participants were not selected randomly) study. And that’s why researchers added that future larger randomised studies are needed to assess the exact role of statins. Also it was an open label study (both the researchers and participants know which treatment is being administered).

Several studies were done in the past like PTAMD (Prophylactic treatment of age related macular degeneration) which used 810 nm laser to clear the cholesterol deposits (T.R. Friberg, D.C. Musch, J.I. Lim, 2006) and recently complement C5 inhibitor trial ( Ophthalmic Surg. Lasers Imaging Retina, 45 (2014), pp. 18-31). Unfortunately both of the studies could not show any improvement in the vision of dry AMD patients.

Conclusion

In spite of all the limitations this study has I think it is promising and will be the foundation of treatment for patients suffering from AMD.

Statins are used commonly by patients with high cholesterol and who have heart diseases and now this study has shown that statins can not only stop the progression but actually reverse the damage done by AMD.

Now I can advise to my patient that low cholesterol levels are actually good for their vision as well.

AMD affects millions of people across the world and causes detrimental effects on their lives and this study shows a hope both for the patients and health care professionals. However more researches needs to be done in future for better and more reliable outcomes.