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Age-related macular degeneration declining, study says
January 10th, 2011
04:05 PM ET

Age-related macular degeneration declining, study says

The number of Americans with age-related macular degeneration is almost a third lower than it was almost two decades ago, according to a study in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Researchers found that this leading cause of blindness affects approximately 6.5% of adults ages 40 and over, compared with the previous estimate of 9.4%.

"I think what this study tells us is that age-related macular degeneration is a significant problem and that perhaps it's not as significant as we once thought," said Dr. George Williams, a retina specialist from Oakland University in Michigan and clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "But I don't think that really changes our approach to anything because it is still a very serious problem and still remains the primary cause of significant vision loss in older Americans."

The National Eye Institute says macular degeneration is a disease affecting central vision and your ability to see fine details. The disease affects people differently- some don't notice the gradual change and, for others, it progresses quickly.

In this prevalence study, researchers at the University of Wisconsin studied the eyes of 7,000 people ages 40 and older from 2005-2008. Across all races and ethnicities, they found those affected the most were in the non-Hispanic white population, ages 60 and older. They also found non-Hispanic black individuals ages 60 and older had rates that were lower than non-Hispanic whites of the same age.

Study author Dr. Ronald Klein added that both the earlier study and the current study did not include people in nursing homes or in assisted living facilities, nor those excluded because of  no light perception in both eyes.  These limitations could cause an underestimation of the frequency of age-related macular degeneration in the population.

"There have been a number of changes over time that might have a relationship to the findings in this paper. There's been less current smoking in the population," said Klein. "We need to examine these relationships and see if they explain this difference."

Your genes play a role in developing the disease. Not smoking, controlling your blood pressure and having a well-balanced diet are risk factors you can control. But a dilated eye exam can make all the difference in catching the disease early.

"What's most important for people is to realize that even if you do all that, you still can be afflicted with this devastating condition and what people need to know is that the sooner people access therapy, the better their chances are of maintaining their vision," Williams added.

Treatments may include drugs or laser therapy for some forms of the disease. Some cases are not treatable.


soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Lori Yonash

    It is significant for my father, who turns 88 tomorrow, and has battled this condition for the past few years. He is no longer able to drive, but enjoys life regardless. He has always had a good diet, continues to exercise, and has never smoked cigarettes. He checks in with his eye doctor every 6 weeks, or so, to stem any new bleeding. I just bought him a birthday card today. It is a challenge to purchase anything in print, as it is difficult for him to read. I think as we live longer, it will continue to be an issue to work on!!

    January 10, 2011 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Jen

    Incidence of macular degeneration higher in non-Hispanic white versus non-Hispanic black...is melanin a factor? (Similar to melanoma...)

    January 10, 2011 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. dustin

    http://localsmokehouse.com/shazam_legal_bud/

    January 10, 2011 at 23:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Michael

    "Some cases are not treatable"
    That should read "Most cases (90%) are not treatable".

    January 11, 2011 at 00:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Linda O

      If it is caught early, it most definitely can be treated. But if you have a family history of macular degeneration, then you should start eye exams early. My father did not get his until he was in his 80s. My brother and I got our macular degeneration in our late 50s and early 60s. Getting exams regularly is key and there are medications to treat wet macular degeneration.

      January 11, 2011 at 15:58 | Report abuse |
  5. Spaten

    I guess that I'm one of the exceptions to this rule. I've been diagnosed with advanced macular degeneration at the age of 38, and was told that I don't have much longer until my eye sight is diminished. How should someone normally react to this news?

    January 11, 2011 at 07:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Linda O

      Have they given you any treatment?

      January 11, 2011 at 15:59 | Report abuse |
    • Spaten

      No treatment yet. I was diagnosed two weeks before I deployed to Afghanistan, which is where I am now until April 2011.

      January 12, 2011 at 01:47 | Report abuse |
  6. phyllis

    would it have something to do with the prevalence of pot smokers? marijuana has been shown to have positive effects in treating glaucoma, why not macular degeneration.

    January 11, 2011 at 08:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bratsack

      THC in marijuana does help with glaucoma because of its capacity to constrict blood vessels, thereby decreasing pressure in the eye. This may not be very effective for macular degen as the restriction of blood flow to that area can keep the little injuries that happen to the macula on a consistent basis from healing. Nice thought, though!

      January 11, 2011 at 08:37 | Report abuse |
  7. Stan Chraminski

    My mom has had this for well over a decade. Shame to get this disease so young. Usually vision goes bad from center outward and ends up only edges provide sight. There should be better technology and treatments in the future but worst case is will need books on cd to read, and would probably look at learning braille reading and keyboarding just in case. Many almost blind people function well but not a good road to be on. Should be support groups to talk to if things go downhill sightwise for advice. Hang in there and prepare while hoping science can help more than today. I'm convinced it's partially a lifestyle thing with smoking, lack of exercise, poor diet contributing. It's the small vessels constricting and breaking so whatever helps circulatory system might help this. Of course, research seems to also show a lot is genetic and better habits may not help but I think they might lessen the progression. Have been some studies on this that correlated some of this I'm discussing. My mom has been getting laser treatments now and then to stop the vessels bleeding as they pop and eye drop and drug treatments that seem to help at times. Hang in there.

    January 11, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Daniel W

    My 86 year old mother has been dealing with macular degeneration for about 10 years. Her sight has gotten progressively worse over time. She has been told there is nothing that can be done to improve sight and she gets depressed. She struggles to maintain her independence. Too bad the research to solve problems of the eye seems to fall behind the progress being made to cure other deseases. Perhaps more funding of research is needed?

    January 11, 2011 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KMC

      My father, who is 86, was recently diagnosed with wet MD. He had lost his central vision on one eye and the other eye was being affected. He is seeing a retinal specialist who is injecting his eyes every six weeks. It has stopped the progression of the disease.

      January 12, 2011 at 09:54 | Report abuse |
  9. trish

    My mom has had amd for 10+ years now. My grandmother and great also had it. Hers is the "dry" kind and is untreatable by normal standards. But there is a place in Santa Fe, NM that is doing some work on the dry type. My mom plans on trying it and the place guarantees at least one degree of improvement, so... Any improvement is better than none.

    January 11, 2011 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Maureen Miko

      Do you have more information about the place in New Mexico that is doing a treatment for Dry Amd? The clinic or doctors involved?

      November 19, 2016 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
  10. Emmy

    My father has had AMD for several years now. There is vitually no treatment for the dry AMD. One of the best books we have read about coping with this horrible disease is "Bert's Eye View: Coping with Macular Degeneration". The author has AMD but is very positive and upbeat about living with it. In his book he provides tips and techniques to get through the day. We purchased for my father one of those machines that magnifies the print so now he can read and write using the machine. I got that information from this book. We purchased it through Amazon. It says that the author donates all the money to the Iris Network which is the Maine Center for the Blind. The book was well worth the money.

    January 11, 2011 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Steven

    Support stem cell research. For many suffering Americans, new treatments involving stem cells are closer to the marketplace than one might think. Advanced Cell Technologies (stock symbol ACTC for those who wish to invest in this opportunity) are currently involved in a significant Phase II/III trial involving a technology that will hopefully allow the blind to see again. Their patents are geared specifically to treat AMD, and Dr. Robert Lanza will likely one day be praised for his pioneering efforts in this field of study. Remember also that many of today's stem cell technologies do not involve the use of embryonic stem cells, allowing more of us to feel no moral conflicts in supporting federal funding for such projects.

    January 11, 2011 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. mike s

    The author fails to mention that in 1994 Kemin Industries began marketing the first commercial source of lutein under the FloraGLO brand and thus launched the eye health category and the opportunity for diet supplimention with a purified natural source of lutein. Numerous clinical studies have shown increase intake of lutein can reduce the incidense of age related macular degeneration and some studies have shown improvemnt in visual parameters. Lutein is a natural antioxidant tha should be in everybody's diet at around 10 mg. per day. It is true that smoking increases the formation of free radicals that cause the oxidation reactions in the macula. However, it by far is not the only promoting factor for AMD and the reduction in smoking does not alone stand responsible for the occurance of AMD. For more on FloraGLO lutein check out http://www.floraglolutein.com

    January 12, 2011 at 08:02 | Report abuse | Reply

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