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Prevalence of age-related macular degeneration projected to increase substantially by 2020

CHICAGO Due to the rapidly aging population, the number of people in the United States with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in people older than 65 years, will increase from 1.75 million people to almost 3 million people by the year 2020, according to an article in the April issue of The Archives of Ophthalmology, a theme issue on blindness, and one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

AMD is a disorder of the retina (the light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye) that can cause gradual vision loss, and is the leading cause of blindness among European-descended people older than 65 years. According to the article, recent research has demonstrated that the likelihood of vision loss from AMD can be reduced with high-dose vitamin supplementation and with certain laser procedures. Policy planners need estimates of the prevalence of AMD to determine the benefit of these and future therapies, the article states, but current estimates are conflicted.

David S. Friedman, M.D., M.P.H., of the Wilmer Eye Institute, at The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, and a member of The Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group, and colleagues estimated the prevalence and distribution of AMD in the United States by pooling findings from large, population-based studies conducted over the past 20 years. The researchers applied the prevalence rates to 2000 U.S. Census data and to the projected U.S. population figures for 2020 to estimate the expected increase in AMD in the future.

The researchers found that the overall prevalence of AMD in the U.S. population 40 years and older is estimated to be 1.47 percent, with an estimated 1.75 million people having AMD. The prevalence of AMD increases dramatically with age, with more than 15 percent of white women older than 80 years having some form of AMD. More than 7 million people had drusen (deposits on the retina which are partially responsible for AMD),
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Contact: John Lazarou
410-502-8902
JAMA and Archives Journals
12-Apr-2004


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