What’s the best way to spot wet AMD early?

13 March 15

written by:

Ade Deane-Pratt

(more articles)

A study at hospitals across the UK to compare currently available NHS tests to the 'gold standard' diagnostic test.

A consortium of researchers from Queen’s University Belfast, the Universities of Aberdeen, Liverpool, and Oxford, Moorfields Eye Hospital London and NHS hospitals across the UK are beginning a study that could help prevent sight loss in some people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD is a condition that affects the central area of vision, which we use for reading, driving or recognising faces. In AMD, light-sensitive cells stop working properly in a part of the eye called the macula (which is responsible for detailed vision).

One in ten

Around 1 in 5 people with AMD will develop the wet form of the condition. In wet AMD, unhealthy new blood vessels grow under the macula. Blood and fluid leak from these vessels, causing damage to the tissue.

Early symptoms of wet AMD are not always easy to spot. The brain can compensate for blurry or distorted vision with the other eye depending on how bad it is and which part of the macula is affected.

By the time wet AMD is detected, sight loss may be permanent. Further sight loss can be prevented by regular injections of medication that prevents unhealthy blood vessel growth under the macula. But it is not always possible to reverse existing damage.

Regular monitoring

Around 1 in 4 people diagnosed with wet AMD will develop the condition in the other eye within 3 years. So in the current study, Professor Usha Chakravarthy and team will monitor test results from over 500 people newly diagnosed with wet AMD in one eye only, for a 3 period of years after diagnosis.

Five routine tests that are currently available on the NHS will be compared with the current ‘gold standard’ test for diagnosing wet AMD. The aim is to find out which test (or combination of tests) is best at detecting the wet form of AMD early on.

“Although the standard diagnostic test for wet AMD is reliable, it is invasive and it poses a very small but serious risk to patients,” said Fight for Sight’s Director of Research, Dr Dolores M Conroy. “This makes it unsuitable for the regular monitoring needed to detect wet AMD in its earliest stages, at a point when existing treatments could prevent damage to central vision.

40,000 new cases every year

“An estimated 40,000 people develop wet AMD in the UK each year. So an effective, reliable and non-invasive means of diagnosing wet AMD based on existing NHS tests would make a significant difference to a great many people.

“The research question being addressed in this study is one of the key priorities for AMD research identified as part of the Sight Loss and Vision Priority Setting Partnership consultation with patients and eye health professionals.”

The study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), which is the government body that coordinates and funds NHS research. The research will take place at around 20 centres across the UK, at a cost of £2.2 million.

You can read more about it on the NIHR website.