Fewer Americans Have AMD

Less Smoking, Healthier Lifestyles May Be Warding Off Vision-Robbing Eye Disease in Older Adults, Researchers Say

By Kelli Miller Stacy
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Jan. 10, 2011 -- Fewer adults in the U.S. are developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), possibly because of healthier lifestyles, researchers report in this month's Archives of Ophthalmology.

AMD is an eye disease that gradually makes it difficult to see fine details, such as numbers on a watch or letters on a street sign. It is a leading cause of vision loss among people aged 60 and older, according to the National Eye Institute. Smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, and a family history of AMD increase your chances of developing the disease.

Ronald Klein, MD, MPH, of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, and colleagues reviewed data from the 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to determine the overall number of Americans with AMD. More than 7,000 patients aged 40 and older participated in the survey and underwent digital eye imaging, which reveals changes in the eye's retina.

The Study

The new report finds that 6.5% of middle-aged and older adults in the U.S. had signs of the eye disease in 2005-2008. Non-Hispanic blacks aged 60 and older had lower rates of AMD than non-Hispanic whites of the same age.

The findings are a stark contrast to an earlier NHANES analysis from 1998 to1994, which estimated that AMD developed in 9.4% of Americans.

Study authors say lower rates of smoking, improved blood pressure management, and an increase in healthier diets and exercise programs may have contributed to the decline in AMD among older adults.

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SOURCES: Klein, R. Archives of Ophthalmology, January 2011; vol 129: pp 75-80.News release, American Medical Association.National Eye Institute web site.

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