Not long ago, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) was an untreatable disease — the leading cause of new cases of blindness in people over age 65. The disorder made it difficult, if not impossible, to read, recognize faces, drive a car, or perform many other simple tasks. 

Thanks to NIH research, we know a lot about the underlying causes of vision loss. For example, we know that AMD is caused by the formation of abnormal, leaky blood vessels in the eye. Eye injections of anti-vascular endothelial growth-factor drugs, such as ranibizumab and bevacizumab, inhibit the growth and leakage of fluid from these abnormal blood vessels and, in some cases, even reverse vision loss.

In addition to AMD, cataracts, glaucoma, and inherited eye disorders cause either blindness or low-vision in millions of Americans. NIH research is providing hope. For example, a recent study in mice showed that cells within an injured eye can be coaxed into regenerating neurons that appeared to integrate themselves into the eye’s nerve circuitry. NIH scientists are also developing several technologies to help people with low vision or blindness navigate their surroundings more safely and confidently. These include a GPS-guided cane, a robotic glove, and a smartphone app for safely navigating crosswalks. 

Did you know?

On average, every $10 million increase in NIH funding generates 3 additional private-sector patents.

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This page last reviewed on February 11, 2020