Scientists find a key cause of vision loss in older people

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What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that affects millions of people, particularly as they get older.

It can make it difficult to see straight ahead, impacting tasks like reading, driving, and recognizing faces. One of the most common causes of vision loss in people over 60, AMD affects nearly 20 million adults in the United States alone.

The costs of treating this condition are huge—estimated at $98 billion for the U.S., Canada, and Cuba.

The Discovery

A recent study led by Dr. Nicolas Bazan at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine offers new hope for people with AMD.

The researchers found that AMD affects a particular type of fat—known as DHA—in the retina, the back part of the eye that captures light.

This is a big deal because DHA helps create protective molecules called elovanoids. These elovanoids can fix damaged light-capturing cells in the retina, helping to keep your vision clear.

According to the researchers, AMD disrupts the process by which DHA is converted into these helpful elovanoids.

As a result, the retina is more susceptible to damage and less able to repair itself. “These findings open important immediate avenues for therapeutic exploration for AMD,” said Dr. Bazan.

Gender Differences

The study also discovered that women might be more at risk for AMD. According to national health data, 66% of people with AMD are women.

As women age, their levels of estrogen decrease, which also lowers the levels of this critical DHA fat. This makes older women more susceptible to vision problems from AMD.

“In AMD, the female retina loses peripheral rod VLC-PUFAs to about 33% less than in males, limiting elovanoid formation and its protective bioactivity,” adds Dr. Bazan.

Looking Ahead

This research is particularly exciting because it could pave the way for new treatments aimed at increasing levels of DHA and elovanoids.

Since current treatment options for AMD are limited, especially for the more severe forms, any new avenue for therapy could be a game-changer.

According to the Bright Focus Foundation, the number of people with AMD is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years, reaching up to 288 million worldwide by 2040.

As our population ages, AMD is likely to become an even more significant public health issue.

Therefore, new insights like these are crucial for developing effective treatments that could help millions maintain their vision and quality of life as they age.

If you care about eye health, please read studies about how to save your eyes from diabetes, and the treatments of dry eye you need to know.

For more information about eye disease, please see recent studies about how to protect your eyes from glaucoma, and results showing this eye surgery may reduce dementia risk.

The research findings can be found in Experimental Eye Research.

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