Age-Related Macular Degeneration Drops By Nearly a Third
Madison, Wisconsin - The percentage of people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has dropped significantly in 15 years, perhaps because fewer people are smoking cigarettes, a known cause of eye disease.
The rate of people aged 40 and older with the disease has dropped from 9.4 percent to 6.5 percent, according to a Centers for Disease Control study published in the January issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
"The decrease in the estimated prevalence of age-related macular degeneration in the U.S. population is consistent with similar trends found in the Beaver Dam Eye Study," says lead author Dr. Ronald Klein, professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences and population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. "It may reflect changes in smoking behavior and other factors and exposures that are subject to intervention."
Still, age-related macular degeneration remains a leading cause of vision loss and affects about 1.75 million Americans, according to the National Eye Institute.
The last national estimates of prevalence of age-related macular degeneration were based on the 1988-1994 Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). To update those numbers, Klein and colleagues analyzed data from the NHANES 2005 to 2008 survey.
The study involved 7,081 people age 40 and old. Researchers photographed their retinas (the back of the eyes) and assessed them for signs of AMD, including drusen (tiny yellow or white deposits in the retina), pigment changes and atrophy in the retina and surrounding tissue.
Noting that the results "have important public health implications," the authors conclude: "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."
This research was supported by the Centers for Disease Control.
Date Published: 01/07/2011