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Portuguese Ophthalmologist wins top Harvard prize for age-related macular degeneration research

eyeInês Lains works at the Massachussetts Eye and Ear Hospital and has been awarded a prize from Harvard University for the best scientific article on age-related macular degeneration, the gradual loss of vision with increasing age for those over 50.

The article refers to a new way of diagnosing the condition by studying how quickly the eye adapts to the dark.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (IMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in patients over 50-years-old in developed countries. New and relevant discoveries about this disease have earned Inês Laíns the Evangelos S. Gragoudas Award, a prize for the best scientific article published by the ophthalmology department of Harvard Medical School.

Inês Laíns was born on June 2, 1986, in Coimbra. She graduated in Ophthalmology from the Faculty of Medicine at Coimbra University and, although she started her career in Portugal, moved to the US to further her research.

The report by Laíns looked at,  "the presence of certain ocular lesions being associated with a greater time necessary for the ability to see in the dark."

Her conclusions allow a "better understanding of ocular changes that occur in this disease," which is "crucial for developing new strategies and therapeutic targets" to understand the disease, a leading cause of blindness among the ageing population.



Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD or ARMD), is a medical condition which may result in blurred or no vision in the centre of the visual field. Early on there are often no symptoms. Over time, however, some people experience a gradual worsening of vision that may affect one or both eyes. While it does not result in complete blindness, loss of central vision can make it hard to recognize faces, drive, read, or perform other activities of daily life. Visual hallucinations may also occur and these do not represent a mental illness.

Macular degeneration typically occurs in older people. Genetic factors and smoking also play a role. It is due to damage to the macula of the retina.

Diagnosis is by a complete eye exam. The severity is divided into early, intermediate, and late types. The late type is additionally divided into "dry" and "wet" forms with the dry form making up 90% of cases.

Prevention includes exercising, eating well, and not smoking. Antioxidant vitamins and minerals do not appear to be useful for prevention. There is no cure or treatment that returns vision already lost. In the wet form, anti-VEGF medication injected into the eye or less commonly laser coagulation or photodynamic therapy may slow worsening. Supplements in those who already have the disease may slow progression.

In 2015 it affected 6.2 million people globally. In 2013 it was the fourth most common cause of blindness after cataracts, preterm birth, and glaucoma. It most commonly occurs in people over the age of fifty and in the United States is the most common cause of vision loss in this age group. About 0.4% of people between 50 and 60 have the disease, while it occurs in 0.7% of people 60 to 70, 2.3% of those 70 to 80, and nearly 12% of people over 80 years old.

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