Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. It is characterized by intermediate-sized drusen, which are deposits under the retina, and retinal pigment epithelium abnormalities.
In a study from the University of Chicago, scientists found more Americans than ever are struggling with their sight as they get older.
They found that nearly 20 million adults have AMD.
Broken down, about 18.3 million people aged 40 and up had an early stage of the condition in 2019, while almost 1.5 million people had late-stage AMD.
AMD comes in two forms: Dry AMD involves the thinning of the macula, while wet AMD is less common and causes faster vision loss.
With wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow in the back of the eye and damage the macula, according to the institute.
While early-stage dry AMD has no symptoms, intermediate-stage AMD can involve some mild blurriness. By the time AMD is in the late stage, straight lines can look wavy and the center of vision may be blurry or blank.
Although some treatments exist for wet AMD, dry AMD is currently only treated with a specific combination of vitamins and nutrients.
In the study, the team analyzed data from the American Community Survey in 2019, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2005-2008, U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data from 2018, and population based-studies from 2004-2016.
The team says the biggest predictor of developing AMD is older age. Adults over 50 should be regularly see an eye care provider to check for early signs of AMD and other eye disorders.
They say within the next six months to a year, there will likely be two new drugs to treat dry AMD.
In addition, it is possible for someone to reduce their risk of AMD.
Helpful changes include quitting smoking, getting regular exercise, maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and eating healthy foods, especially leafy green vegetables and fish.
Doctors also recommend taking an antioxidant supplement formulated for this purpose that combines vitamin E, zinc, copper, lutein and zeaxanthin.
For more information about health, please see recent studies about how vitamin B may help fight vision loss, and results showing western diet may increase vision loss risk in older people.
The study was conducted by David Rein et al and published in JAMA Ophthalmology.
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