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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Major Cause of Blindness in Senior Citizens, Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Appears in Decline

U.S. study says AMD in those over 40 drops to 6.5% from 9.4% in 1994 - watch videos

Jan. 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.

An 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 journals.

"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 findings..

 

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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 Prevent Blindness.


About Macular Degeneration

Also 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.

AMD 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.

>> NIH: National Eye Institute at MedlinePlus

Watch Video from National Eye Institute

>> Click to video = “What is Macular Degeneration”


Coping with Macular Degeneration - opens in new window

 

Watch Video from NIH Senior Health

"Coping with Macular Degeneration" [5 min 21 sec]

 


 

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