All around the United States, researchers at 24 medical centers hope to arbitrate whether a laser can stop the development of macular degeneration before it progresses. There are two forms of macular degeneration, wet and dry. The dry form makes upto75 percent of all cases and is characterized by the formation of yellowish deposits within the layers of the retina known as drusen. People with dry macular degeneration have a gradual loss of vision. While there are a number of procedures under study to treat the wet form, there are fewer options available for the dry form.
A team of researchers led by Thomas Friberg, M.D., from the University of Pittsburgh, are studying the use of a laser called the infrared OcuLight laser to target drusen. The hope is that the laser will lead to resorption of the drusen and delay the progression of the condition.
Researchers hope to recruit 800 patients for this study, and they hope to answer two main questions. First, should the laser be used as a prophylactic treatment for everyone? And, second, they hope to determine whether the laser keeps the dry form from turning into the wet form, which is associated with more rapid vision loss. Dr. Friberg felt that they know the laser is effective at getting rid of the drusen and in some cases, vision improves. They hope to answer the other questions which arises from this study..
Dr. Friberg says it's also important to note that researchers are using a "soft" laser, because too much laser can lead to additional problems. The study is currently fully enrolled and at this time most participants have been in the study for about three years.