Dr. Jordi Monés warns of the progression of AMD in a society that is living increasingly longer
The Director of the Institut de la Màcula played a leading role in a press meeting with the National Association of Health Reporters in which he placed the disease as the prime cause of vision loss in the Western world in patients of over 50 years old. He also said that, with regard to dry or atrophic AMD, research into stem cell therapies is providing promising initial results
Vision problems are often associated with age. Therefore, in a society in which people are living longer, these affect greater numbers. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is now the leading cause of sight loss in the Western world in patients of over fifty years old. Over 25 million people currently have this disease and the figure increases by around 500,000 every year. The estimate is that in the coming years one in ten people of over 50 will suffer from the disease, increasing to 30% for the over 65s and one in four people of over 80 years.
The Institut de la Màcula is an international centre that is a benchmark in the investigation of this disease. Our director, Dr Jordi Monés is conducting research into the disease’s two types: exudative or wet AMD, which has a cure, but for which work to improve existing treatments is taking place; and atrophic or dry AMD, which currently does not have a cure. Researching into the latter type of the disease is a race against the clock. At present, the work being undertaken is providing promising results in therapies based on stem cells. Dr Monés is participating in one of these projects.
Dr Monés recently played a leading role in a press meeting with the National Association of Health Reporters, in which he provided information about the current state of the disease and the lines of research that are being pursued to treat it. At present, three channels are open: preventing the disease, slowing it and achieving regeneration of the retina.
AMD is a degenerative eye disease affecting the retinal area that specialises in the fine vision of details and enables us to read, distinguish people’s faces or drive. This is a disease, as Dr. Monés explained, with a genetic predisposition. When it is moderate, it can be accelerated by such elements as tobacco use, a diet high in fats and sugars, a sedentary lifestyle and environmental factors: sun and oxidation.
Atrophic AMD constitutes 85% of all cases of age-related macular degeneration. While its incidence is much higher, it evolves slower over the years, and currently has no cure. However, there should be no let-up in medical checks so that the disease’s evolution can be monitored.
On the other hand, exudative AMD is the least frequent form of age-related macular degeneration (close to 15%) but it is the one with the fastest progression. It requires immediate treatment to avoid irreversible destruction of central vision in a short period of time (weeks or months). It is treated with intraocular injections.
With regard to this treatment, Dr Monés specified that, in observation of international protocols, 6 and 7 intravitreal injections should be performed in the first year. Despite this recommendation, treatment is less intensive in some places. Dr Monés is very clear on this medical practice: undertreatment is not an option, the necessary intravitreal injections should be performed: "There is no catch, more injections mean more vision", he says. He also explains that this is a proactive, individualised cure that progressively increases the time between intraocular injections until the right interval is found for each patient in order to halt the disease.
Dr Monés, a retinologist, also underlined the importance of "providing patients with proper explanations about what is going to be done and the benefits to be obtained" so that they will adhere to treatment and that, once the disease has been stabilised, "they will understand that continuous treatment is essential and will not drop their guard".