RESEARCH SUPPORT, U.S. GOV'T, P.H.S.
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Improvement of visual acuity over time in patients with bilateral geographic atrophy from age-related macular degeneration.

Retina 2000
PURPOSE: To study the improvement in visual acuity over time in patients with central scotomas.

METHODS: In a prospective natural history study of geographic atrophy (GA) from age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) with annual follow-up, 36 patients with bilateral GA completed 3 years of follow-up. Protocol visual acuity (VA) measurements were performed. Scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (SLO) was performed, and the areas of GA were measured from fundus photographs.

RESULTS: Six eyes of six patients with VA ranging from 20/80 to 20/500 had a VA improvement of two or more lines (mean, 3.2 lines). This was found only in the worse-seeing eyes of the patients and was contemporaneous with the deterioration in VA of the better-seeing eyes. Four of six eyes that improved in acuity had an improvement in the ability to find and hold the fixation target in an area of seeing retina, as assessed by SLO at follow-up, and a fifth eye changed from one fixation site that had little functional retina to another site.

CONCLUSIONS: Spontaneous improvement in VA in eyes with bilateral GA and central scotomas may occur. It appears to be related to deterioration in VA of the better-seeing fellow eye and is associated with improvement of fixation in the worse-seeing eye. The worse-seeing eye of a patient with bilateral ARMD may have the potential for better vision than measured VA indicates. This finding may have implications for the choice of patients in treatment trials, for interpretation of long-term results, and for planning and assessment of low vision intervention.

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