American researchers believe they've found a way to detect age-related macular degeneration (AMD) using a patient's blood sample. Although it's a long way from being standardized, many eye doctors are interested in using this technique to better diagnose AMD in the future.
This research took place at the famous Massachusetts Eye and Ear specialty hospital. Scientists took 120 blood samples from patients with varying degrees of AMD. As a control, researchers also looked at blood samples from non-AMD patients.
Study authors soon discovered that AMD patients had at least 87 different metabolites in their bloodstream compared with non-AMD patients. Most of these AMD metabolites were either in the lipid pathway or were lipids themselves.
Lipids are soluble substances within the body that are tasked with storing energy or communicating with other cells. Lipids are usually waxy and can be in the form of fats, triglycerides, and certain vitamins.
The results from this study support the idea that lipids contribute to the development of AMD. As of today, however, doctors don't know the exact role lipids play in the formation of AMD.
AMD is one of the most common blinding diseases in older patients around the world. There are two major kinds of AMD: dry AMD and wet AMD. The more common dry AMD is caused by the deterioration of the retina over time. Although wet AMD is rare, it's far more serious because it is caused by the leakage of retinal blood vessels.
Most of the symptoms of AMD only occur after the disease has significantly advanced. A few of these symptoms include blurred vision and eye pain.
Eye doctors recommend everyone over the age of 40 get their eyes checked out at least once a year to catch AMD as early as possible. As of today, there's no cure for AMD, but there are various strategies doctors can use to slow down the progression of the disease. Common treatment strategies include vitamin supplementation, laser surgery, and, in the case of wet AMD, routine eye injections.
Founded in 1824, Massachusetts Eye and Ear is one of the most highly respected specialty hospitals in the USA. Officially a part of the Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Eye and Ear has around 40 beds and is located at 243 Charles Street in Boston.
For more information, anyone can read this full study in the latest edition of the medical journal Ophthalmology. This study is listed under the title, "Human Plasma Metabolomics Study across All Stages of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Identifies Potential Lipid Biomarkers."