Newswise — July 25, 2014 – Recent years have seen major strides in basic science and clinical research on age-related macular degeneration (AMD)—the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. The August issue of Optometry and Vision Science, official journal of the American Academy of Optometry, is a theme issue devoted to advances and challenges in AMD research. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

Contributed by leading researchers and clinicians, the 24 articles in the special issue "highlight the exponential growth in knowledge on all aspects of AMD care," according to a guest editorial by Erica L. Fletcher, OD, PhD, FAAO, of University of Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues.

Progress in AMD Research: Early Detection, Risk Factors, Treatment AdvancesAge-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss among older adults in the United States, affecting nearly 13 percent of people worldwide over 80 years old. In the past, there was little that could be done to help patients with AMD, aside from monitoring disease progression—and loss of vision—over time.

But in recent years, researchers have made substantial progress toward understanding the development and progression of AMD, opening the way to more effective management approaches. "In addition to some promising preventive approaches, there have been some impressive results with treatments aimed at reducing or restoring vision loss in patients with AMD," comments Anthony Adams, OD, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Optometry and Vision Science. Topics in the special theme issue include:

• New methods for detecting changes at early stages of disease. "Using recently available imaging techniques, it is now possible to follow changes at the cellular level" in eyes affected by AMD," according to Dr Fletcher and coauthors. Studies using these techniques, such as optical coherence tomography, provide new insights into how AMD develops and progresses. • Genetic and environmental risk factors for AMD. Genetic factors can aid in identifying patients at high risk of developing advanced AMD, and may affect the response to treatments targeting vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). New animal models have been developed, and will play a critical role in understanding the effects of specific genes on AMD development. • Lifestyle and dietary factors that may affect the risk and progression of AMD. One article in the special issue highlights the ongoing debate over the potential benefits of antioxidant and mineral supplements. Smoking is another critical factor, and one that patients may not always be honest about. • New treatments and visual rehabilitation. The special issue includes updates on some emerging treatments for both the "dry" and "wet" subtypes of AMD. Other articles explore the many ways in which loss of vision—especially central vision—affects quality of life in patients with AMD. Papers on visual rehabilitation approaches raise the possibility of an "augmented vision system" using Google Glass for patients with AMD. Dr Adams and his editorial team hope that their special issue will provide a stimulating update on AMD for all vision professionals. He adds, "Patients and families affected by AMD will be encouraged to know that research is progressing on several fronts, with a real hope of effective new treatments in the years ahead."

"The management of those with AMD is now no longer just the futile exercise in monitoring a person’s loss of vision, but rather offers the potential for slowing vision loss," Dr Fletcher and coauthors conclude. "The future for even better treatment and visual outcomes is bright."

Click here to access the issue.

About Optometry and Vision ScienceOptometry and Vision Science, official journal of the American Academy of Optometry, is the most authoritative source for current developments in optometry, physiological optics, and vision science. This frequently cited monthly scientific journal has served primary eye care practitioners for more than 75 years, promoting vital interdisciplinary exchange among optometrists and vision scientists worldwide.

About the American Academy of OptometryFounded in 1922, the American Academy of Optometry is committed to promoting the art and science of vision care through lifelong learning. All members of the Academy are dedicated to the highest standards of optometric practice through clinical care, education or research.

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