Age-related macular degeneration can occur much earlier than originally thought

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of visual impairment and blindness in industrialized countries. But the question is whether it can be defined as a disease in people 50 or older. In a recent study to determine the incidence of age-related macular degeneration undertaken as part of the Gutenberg Health Study of the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) results showed that even persons under the age of 50 may be affected by an early form of the eye disease. Just under 4 percent of the 35 to 44-year-old subjects in the population-based study were found to be suffering from AMD.

Macular Degeneration

National Eye Institute of the NIH

In order to identify the age- and gender-specific incidence of AMD, the research team assessed the status of the ocular fundus of 4,340 participants in the Gutenberg Health Study. Evaluated were vascular structure, the head of the optic nerve, and the macula of the eye, which is the point of sharpest vision. The results, not surprisingly, documented that the incidence of AMD increases with age. What was surprising, was the fact that even persons under the age of 50 can already be affected by early stage AMD. In the age group of 35- to 44-year-olds, 3.8 percent of the subjects in the Study were found to be suffering from the disease. The findings thus contradict the accepted assumption that age-related macular degeneration only occurs in the section of the population that is over 50 years old.

Age-related macular degeneration leads to loss of visual acuity. The cause is damage to the cells in the region of the central retina also known as the “yellow spot.” Information on the annual number of individuals who develop AMD is still insufficient, but the Mainz-based researchers hope to remedy this situation with their next project. As the Gutenberg cohort was subjected to a follow-up examination five years after inclusion in the study, the research group now has access to more relevant and reliable data. “The prospective design of the study, in combination with the availability of interdisciplinary research data, should make it possible for us to identify risk factors for the development of late forms of AMD in our cohort. We are looking forward with some excitement to the results,” explained the team.

With more on-going research projects like these we continue to learn more about the diseases that can affect our eyes and vision and in turn how we can treat and hopefully cure them.

Read the original article at https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140721100125.htm