Sight-threatening (late) age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs in 2% of people aged over 50 years in industrialised countries, with prevalence increasing with age. Early-stage disease is marked by normal vision, but retinal changes (drusen and pigment changes). Disease progression leads to worsening central vision, but peripheral vision is preserved.
Methods and outcomes
We conducted a systematic review and aimed to answer the following clinical questions: What are the effects of interventions to prevent progression of early- or late-stage age-related macular degeneration; and exudative age-related macular degeneration? We searched: Medline, Embase, The Cochrane Library and other important databases up to March 2006 (BMJ Clinical Evidence reviews are updated periodically, please check our website for the most up-to-date version of this review). We included harms alerts from relevant organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
We found 45 systematic reviews, RCTs, or observational studies that met our inclusion criteria. We performed a GRADE evaluation of the quality of evidence for interventions.
In this systematic review we present information relating to the effectiveness and safety of the following interventions: antiangiogenesis (using pegaptanib, ranibizumab, interferon alfa-2a, or anecortave acetate), antioxidant vitamins plus zinc, external beam radiation, laser treatment to drusen, photodynamic therapy with verteporfin, submacular surgery, thermal laser photocoagulation, transpupillary thermotherapy.
Sight-threatening (late) age related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs in 2% of people aged over 50 years in industrialised countries, with prevalence increasing with age.
Early stage disease is marked by normal vision, but retinal changes (drusen and pigment changes). Disease progression leads to worsening central vision, but peripheral vision is preserved.85% of cases are atrophic (dry) AMD, but exudative (wet) AMD, marked by choroidal neovascularisation, leads to a more rapid loss of sight.The main risk factor is age. Hypertension, smoking, and a family history of AMD are also risk factors.
High dose antioxidant vitamin and zinc supplementation may reduce progression of moderate AMD, but there is no evidence of benefit in people with no, or mild AMD, or those with established late AMD in both eyes.
CAUTION: Beta-carotene, an antioxidant vitamin used in AMD, has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer in people at high risk of this disease.
Photodynamic treatment with verteporfin reduces the risk of developing moderate or severe loss of visual acuity and legal blindness in people with vision initially better than 20/100 or 20/200, compared with placebo.
Photodynamic treatment is associated with an initial loss of vision and photosensitive reactions in a small proportion of people.
Thermal laser photocoagulation can reduce severe visual loss in people with exudative AMD. It is frequently associated with an immediate and permanent reduction in visual acuity if the lesion involves the central macula, but it remains a proven effective treatment for extrafoveal choroidal neovascularisation.
About half of people treated with thermal lasers show recurrent choroidal neovascularisation within 3 years.We don't know whether laser treatment of drusen prevents progression of disease, and it may increase short term rates of choroidal neovascularisation.
Antiangiogenesis treatment using vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitors such as ranibizumab or pegaptanib reduces the risk of moderate vision loss, and may improve vision at 12 and 24 months.
Antiangiogenesis treatment using anecortave acetate may be as effective as photodynamic therapy in reducing vision loss.
Studies investigating external beam radiotherapy have given contradictory results, and have failed to show an overall benefit in AMD.
Subcutaneous interferon alfa-2a and submacular surgery have not been shown to improve vision, and are associated with potentially severe adverse effects.
We found no RCT evidence on the effects of transpupillary thermotherapy.