Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of legal blindness in people over 50. Experts estimate 30 percent of all seniors over the age 70 have the disease, but there is no cure. Now a treatment done in Europe for one type of macular degeneration is being studied in the United States. Here is why doctors are so optimistic about the outcome.
As a professional engineer, Fareed Ossi enjoys his job. "I love to be working on major projects like a hospital, high rise. And for me to be denied that, it would be just like a slow death, professionally," he says.
Unfortunately, Ossi suffers from a form of dry macular degeneration and his sight was failing. Then he heard about a treatment done in Europe.
He says, "Pick up the phone and make me an appointment, I'll be on the next flight to Germany. That's basically what happened."
Today ophthalmologist Dana Deupree, M.D., is studying that same treatment, called rheopheresis in the United States.
"There really is nothing else out there currently for millions of Americans to have a shot at getting some of their vision back," says Dr. Deupree, of St. Luke's Retina Institute in Tarpon Springs, Fla.
During the treatment, the patient's blood is taken from one arm, put through a filtration system that removes lipids and macro proteins and then put back.
Dr. Deupree says, "To put it in basic terms, we filter crud from the blood."
This filtration improves circulation in the bloodstream including in the eyes.
Ossi saw a difference after just two treatments. He says, "I was looking at the television monitor and I was able to read things on the screen that I was unable to read before."
Dr. Deupree says, "You don't see that type of vision improvement in macular degeneration patients, I mean I would say ever."
The treatment allowed Ossi to not only get back to the office but back behind the wheel. He can see well enough to drive for the first time in 10 years.
Doctors caution the treatment does not work for every patient with dry macular degeneration. They are hoping the trials will show them who it will and will not benefit. And the treatment is not permanent. Fareed has to have it again each year to keep his vision clear.
If you would like more information, please contact:
Richard Davis, M.D.
3903 Northdale Blvd., Suite 130