Iron Overload, Eye Disease May Be Linked

AUGUSTA, Ga., June 25 (UPI) — Hemochromatosis, which results in iron overload, may be linked to the wet form of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. Vadivel Ganapthy of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and colleagues said an earlier study in mice and human retinal pigmented epitielial cells linked the eye disease to impaired iron absorption from the blood in a back layer of the retina.

In the current study, Ganapathy and colleagues continue to study iron overload — ways to genetically screen for it, how it affects eye function as well as why the disease sometimes progresses rapidly.

The researchers speculate that too much iron — known to wreak cumulative havoc on the body’s organs — hastens aging of the eyes.

Dr. Julian Nussbaum says vascular endothelial growth factors — VEGF — encourage new blood vessel growth that can make the disease worse.

“I tell patients that caught early, they have a 92 percent chance of stabilizing their vision with anti-VEGF therapy but they only have about a 38 percent chance of improving their vision,” Nussbaum said in a statement. “It’s similar to cancer therapy: We can put them into remission but we don’t know if it will come back.”

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