Age-related Macular Degeneration: A Rising Concern

Researchers predict a global rise in age-related macular degeneration cases from the current 196 million to 288 million by 2040.

A technician checks the eyesight of an older man

Experts predict that the number of people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) will significantly increase in the next 20 years[^1^]. Although AMD doesn’t cause total blindness, it can impair vision enough to hinder activities such as driving, reading, and recognizing faces[^1^]. With federal regulators approving injections of anti-VEGF medications for AMD treatment[^1^], it’s crucial to stay informed about this condition.

But before we dive deeper into the topic, let’s explore some frequently asked questions:

Q: Is the rise in AMD cases due to an actual increase in the condition or better diagnostic tools?

A: Some experts believe that the increase in reported cases of AMD can be attributed to improved diagnostic tools. Early diagnosis allows for timely treatment and better outcomes[^1^].

A: Distortion of straight lines, such as door or window frames, may be an early symptom of AMD[^1^]. If you notice this distortion, it’s recommended that you schedule an appointment with an eye doctor[^1^].

Now that we’ve addressed some questions, let’s explore the world of age-related macular degeneration in more detail.

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision impairment in older populations[^2^]. It affects the macula, the central portion of the retina responsible for sharp vision[^2^]. While symptoms may not be noticeable in the early or intermediate stages, those in later stages can experience significant vision loss[^2^].

One expert suggests that early diagnosis is crucial for better treatment outcomes[^2^]. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is considered the gold standard for diagnosis[^2^]. This imaging test produces detailed images of the retina, aiding in the identification and monitoring of AMD[^2^].

Nutritional supplements may help slow the progression of AMD. High-dose vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, and zinc have shown promising results[^2^]. However, supplementation should be based on individual needs and the stage of the disease[^2^]. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements.

Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and carotenoids may also benefit those with AMD[^2^]. Foods such as citrus fruits, berries, melons, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, and seafood are recommended[^2^]. While the specific association between certain foods and macular degeneration is still being studied, it’s generally accepted that a healthy diet is good for overall eye health[^2^].

Age-related macular degeneration is typically associated with older age, genetic factors, and environmental factors such as smoking[^2^]. Maintaining good vision in one eye can help reduce the risk of vision loss associated with AMD[^2^].

Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) injections are considered a first-line treatment for wet AMD, helping stabilize and improve vision[^2^]. Newer medications, such as pegcetacoplan and avacincaptad pegol, have also been approved for the treatment of geographic atrophy, the late stage of AMD[^2^].

Treatment delays can lead to visual loss, so early intervention is crucial[^2^]. Ideally, treatment should begin within 14 days of diagnosis[^2^]. Dry AMD, characterized by thinning of the macula, currently has no specific treatment[^2^]. Management strategies for dry AMD include the use of magnifying lenses and optimizing lighting and accessibility features on electronic devices[^2^].

Looking Ahead: A Brighter Future

With advancements in diagnostic tools and treatment options, a diagnosis of macular degeneration no longer means inevitable blindness[^2^]. Early diagnosis and proper treatment can often prevent severe vision impairment, allowing individuals to maintain their independence and continue driving, reading, and recognizing faces[^2^].

Reference List:

  1. Age-related macular degeneration expected to affect 288 million people by 2040
  2. Macular degeneration: Overview and more