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New laser helps slow macular degeneration

New laser helps slow macular degeneration
Photo: New laser helps slow macular degeneration
A new Australian made laser treatment can slow macular degeneration, which affects one in seven Australians aged over 50.

An Adelaide-made laser could improve the lives of thousands of Australians with early macular degeneration - an untreatable, age-related condition leading to loss of vision.

Melbourne researchers have trialled the nanosecond laser on 50 patients with the disease.

It improved their eye health and unlike other laser treatments, it does not damage the retina.

There is no treatment currently available for macular degeneration.

"This is the first study to show that this laser is very important for treating early stages of the disease," said Associate Professor Erica Fletcher from the University of Melbourne's Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience.

Age-related macular degeneration affects one in seven Australians aged over 50.

The disease recently hit the UK headlines, when actress Dame Judi Dench said the condition has left her unable to read scripts.

The two-year Melbourne study shows how a single nanosecond laser session can reverse early markers of the disease, which include the presence of small fatty deposits called drusen and the thickening in a membrane at the back of the eye.

One of the surprising findings of the study is that performing the laser treatment in one eye can also produce positive effects in the other untreated eye.

Further clinical trials are being conducted at the Centre for Eye Research in Melbourne to see if the laser can slow the progression to late forms of the disease.

"If those results are encouraging it's going to be a game changer," said Fletcher.

The laser is made by Adelaide-based company Ellex.

HOW TO REDUCE THE RISK OF MACULAR DEGENERATION
While you can't change your genes or your age, experts say you can reduce your risk of the disease by making positive diet and lifestyle changes:
* Eat fish regularly
* Choose low glycemic index carbohydrates instead of high GI
* Don't smoke

Copyright AAP 2014.

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