Major Cause of
Blindness in Senior Citizens, Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Appears
U.S. study says AMD
in those over 40 drops to 6.5% from 9.4% in 1994 - watch videos
10, 2011 In a rare bit of good news for senior citizens about their
health, a new study has found a significant decline in the rate of the
eye disease known as AMD or age-related macular degeneration, the
leading cause of blindness in senior citizens around the world.
estimated 6.5 percent of Americans age 40 and older have AMD, which is a
lower rate than was reported 15 years ago, according to a report in the
January issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives
"Despite new medical and surgical interventions, age-related macular
degeneration (AMD) remains an important cause of loss of vision in the
United States," the authors write as background information in the
article. They found the last nationally representative estimates of
prevalence of AMD were based on the 1988-1994 Third National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) and set out to update these
Ronald Klein, M.D., M.P.H., of University of Wisconsin School of
Medicine and Public Health, Madison, and colleagues analyzed data from
the 2005 to 2008 NHANES. A total of 7,081 individuals age 40 or older
were selected to participate and had photographs taken of both eyes.
Digital images of the eyes were assessed for signs of AMD, including
drusen (tiny yellow or white deposits in the retina), pigment changes
and atrophy in the retina and surrounding tissue.
The overall prevalence of AMD among adults age 40 and older was an
estimated 6.5 percent, which represented a decrease from the 9.4 percent
reported in the 1988 to 1994 survey. The estimated prevalence of late
(more advanced) AMD was 0.8 percent.
Non-Hispanic black individuals age 60 and older had a lower prevalence
of any AMD than non-Hispanic white individuals of the same age.
"These estimates are consistent with a decreasing incidence of AMD
reported in another population-based study and have important public
health implications," the authors conclude.
"The decreasing prevalence of AMD may reflect recent change in the
frequency of smoking and other exposures such as diet, physical activity
and blood pressure associated with AMD. It remains to be seen whether
public health programs designed to increase awareness of the
relationships of these exposures to AMD in patients at risk and their
physicians and eye care providers will continue to result in further
decline of the prevalence of AMD in the population."
The research was supported by a National Health and Nutrition
Examination survey contract, which provided funding for the entire study
including collection and analyses of data. Additional support was
provided by Senior Scientific Investigator Awards from Research to
About Macular Degeneration
called: Age-related macular degeneration, AMD
Macular degeneration, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a
leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 and older. It is a disease
that destroys your sharp, central vision. You need central vision to see
objects clearly and to do tasks such as reading and driving.
affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine
detail. It does not hurt, but it causes cells in the macula to die. In
some cases, AMD advances so slowly that people notice little change in
their vision. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a
loss of vision in both eyes. Regular comprehensive eye exams can detect
macular degeneration before the disease causes vision loss. Treatment
can slow vision loss. It does not restore vision.