Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration on the Decline?
According to the most recent estimate, there are about 7.3 million people in the U.S. alone with some sort of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and 890,000 of those with have the advanced form of this disease. The US government also estimates that by 2020, about 2.9 million people will have advanced form of AMD.
However, even with these alarming statistics, there is indeed some good news for the people who might be at the risk of developing the disease later in their lives.
What is age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?
AMD is a common eye condition among people age 50 (in some cases, age 40) and older. It is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. It gradually destroys the macula, the part of the eye that provides sharp, central vision needed for seeing objects clearly.
What this AMD can lead to?
While AMD does not cause complete blindness, it could lead to significant loss of vision. In some people, AMD advances so slowly that vision loss does not occur for a long time. In others, the disorder progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in one or both eyes. The vision loss makes it difficult to recognize faces, drive a car, read, print, or do close work, such as sewing or fixing things around the house.
Is AMD on the decline?
In 2010, an analytic comparison of two extensive studies done on the people with AMD in two different periods was performed by the researchers of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The research which was done by using high-resolution digital pictures of the eyes of the participants showed some really interesting facts and results.
Study 1 (early 1990s): In this study, which was done from 1988 to 1994 through the participants of the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, as much as 9.4 percent of people aged 40 or older were found to have some form of AMD.
Study 2 (mid 2000s): In this study, high resolution digital pictures of 5,553 U.S. adults, aged 40 or older were used for analysis. These pictures were of the eyes of the people who participated in the 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Based on the data obtained, it was noticed that that only 6.5 percent of the participants had signs of some level of AMD such as tiny yellow or white deposits in the retina, pigment changes and degradation of the retina. According to the same study, less than one percent had some late or advanced form of the disease.
What does the difference show?
Comparing the results of both studies, if we assume that the rate of the new cases of AMD among the same population group remains unchanged, as many as 18 million Americans should have some form of AMD now. However, the results were much less than that as the outcome meant a BIG reduction (or decline) of 30% in the cases of AMD in US alone.
What is the possible reason for this decline?
To date, scientists have been unable to establish any clear cut reason for this significant decline in the frequency of age-related macular degeneration. However, there are certain factors that are believed to have an important role in the risk reduction of the disease such as:
Smoking control: Growing awareness about the risks associated with the tobacco smoking could be one of the possible reasons as research shows that smoking increases the risk of AMD two-fold.
Better blood pressure: As the new and advance treatment modalities are being introduced for the better blood pressure control, this will eventually lead to lesser cases of macular degeneration as hypertension (high blood pressure) is considered one of the main risk factors in the development of age related macular degeneration.
Exercise: Sedentary lifestyle has been linked with high blood cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy, physically active lifestyle, on the other hand, is a proven way of reducing the risk of a variety of disease including those of our eyes.
Dietary habits: Increased use of multi vitamins, anti-oxidants and minerals such as zinc can also be considered as one of the contributory factors in the overall risk reduction. Research clearly shows that high doses of specific vitamins and minerals may slow the condition’s progress. Also, eating a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish also seems to reduce the risk.
Regular eye checkups: Regular eye checkups (clinical exams by your eye doctor) are considered as one of the key factors in the early detection or complete prevention of AMD. Growing awareness about eye exams and habitual eye checkups (at least once a year) is, therefore, also important.
Media resources: With the advent of the internet, there has been enormous growth in recent years in products and services designed for the visually impaired. As with everything else, knowledge is the key to better prevention in all cases of AMD. Therefore, “learn more, protect more” remains the rule of the thumb in the fight against AMD.
While the above-mentioned studies are no definitive proof that changing your living pattern or diet will reduce your risk of developing AMD or having it progress, to maintain good health in general, there is no reason not to eat a healthy diet, exercise, avoid smoking, and see your healthcare professional regularly. After all, AMD is on the decline and you should maximize your chances of being in the lucky, healthy group of population.
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