“Age-related macular degeneration affects 50% of the population over 65-70 years, but thanks to new pharmacological treatments only 6-8% report visual loss. However, the disease can appear as early as the age of 55. Smoking is the main risk factor because maculopathy affects the very small vessels of the retina, so you have to be very careful. “So Edoardo Midena, general secretary of the Italian Society of the retina, on the occasion of the Sir National Congress which took place in Venice from 1 to 2 July to take stock of screening, risk factors and differential diagnoses of pathologies affecting the retina, but also to talk about novelties from a therapeutic and surgical.
“Age-related maculopathy is widespread in the older population – says Midena, who is also director of the School of Specialization in Ophthalmology of the University of Padua – but retinal lesions can appear even earlier, or above 55 years old. There is no identikit of the typical patient, anyone over the age of 65 can be affected by maculopathy linked to aging. Symptoms occur late, when the disease is already there, and include: reduced vision, distorted images (the door profile is no longer straight and the lines of a newspaper or book text make waves ‘). In this case the signs of the disease, if one looks into the eye, have been there for a long time. Furthermore, it is good to know that maculopathy can also affect healthy subjects, who are not subjected to other therapies because they do not have any type of disorder “.
The eye examination, periodic checks based on the initial status and diagnostic screening are essential “to exclude that there are other problems besides a maculopathy”, Midena warns who adds: “We are still in a phase in which photos are important, they tell us if there is something, but they are not enough. diagnostic technology, especially in this period to make up for lost time. It is essential to use the Oct. During the various lockdowns these patients, as well as all people with a retinal pathology, remained ‘in the dark’. unfortunately, from a clinical point of view the eyes were not considered important “.
Macular degeneration can be cured. “If up to 10 years ago nothing could be done – underlines the secretary general of SIR – thanks to the new categories of drugs that are administered directly into the eye, the disease is blocked. These are the so-called intravitreal drugs that are increasingly effective and safe, but that if taken generally they would have enormous side effects on patients because they were initially studied and developed for oncological diseases, not for ocular diseases. Instead, at the appropriate doses – and already extensively studied – once injected directly into the eye they are able to block the evolution of the disease. These drugs are today the most important weapon: they can also be injected once a month for the first 3 months, then every 2-3 months. For the patient a long-lasting therapy, but easier to follow “.
Several novelties emerged from the SIR Congress precisely in the therapeutic field. “We are trying to elaborate protocols – concludes Midena – so that the therapy does not interfere too much in people’s lives. In other words, we are studying the possibility of carrying out a balanced number of injections to be performed in facilities that allow treatment and return. In addition, we doctors want to be ready, although we will not have a recurring pandemic for statistical reasons, to avoid the blackout that we have had in addition to the lockdown for these therapies “.