Age-Related Macular Degeneration
A new study found that older adults with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) who kept their scheduled eye doctor appointments over two years had better visual outcomes than those who missed just one appointment.
Keeping appointments with an ophthalmologist plays an important role for AMD patients, according to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine researchers who conducted the clinical trial. AMD is an eye disease that destroys the sharp, central vision needed to see clearly.
The study, published online February 6, 2020, in JAMA Ophthalmology, involved researchers analyzing data of nearly 1,200 AMD patients from 44 clinical centers nationwide.
Patients were required to visit an ophthalmologist once every four weeks for a total of 26 visits. AMD patients received treatment with anti-intravitreal anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drugs. The treatment required an ophthalmologist to inject the anti-VEGF drugs into the eye. Not all 26 visits to the doctor required patients to receive injections.
The study found that patients who missed appointments experienced more vision loss than those who regularly went to their appointments. For example, patients who missed an average of 36 to 60 days between visits lost the sight of 6.1 letters, while those who went more than 60 days between visits lost 12.5 letters.
What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Macular Degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is an incurable eye disease that worsens with age. Macular Degeneration is the deterioration of the retina, the thin layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye. The retina converts light that comes through the pupil and lens into electric signals. The signals are sent to the brain which processes them and interprets them as images.
In the center of the retina is the macula, which gives the central vision needed for activities such as reading, driving, watching television, recognizing faces, and seeing objects in fine detail. When the macula wears down, images are not received correctly.
As the eye disease worsens, the macula causes wavy or blurred eyesight.
While the macula may deteriorate, the retina continues to function and allows people to maintain their peripheral vision, which is not as clear as their central vision.
According to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) most people do not have vision loss in the early stage of AMD. Some vision loss, however, comes in the intermediate stage of the eye disease, but the symptoms may not be noticeable. Vision loss is noticeable in the late stage of AMD.
Contributing Factors to AMD
AMD is a complex disease with risk factors that people can and cannot control. Studies show that some factors that can lead to the disease can be controlled, such as:
- Being overweight overall, and especially around the abdomen
- Unchecked cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure
- Long-term exposure to the sun without eye protection
However, other risk factors such as age, family history of macular degeneration and gender, are not controllable. According to the AMDF, women are more susceptible to AMD than men because females live longer.
Number of AMD Patients Expected to Increase
AMD is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in adults 65 years old and older, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The AMDF estimates that the eye disease affects over 10 million people, more than cataracts and glaucoma combined. Some people with AMD
The number of people with AMD is expected to rise because of the projected increase in the older adult population over the next two decades. The U.S. Census projects the number of people 65 years old and older to increase to 83.7 million by 2050, more than double the estimated population of 43.1 million in 2012.
AMD Patients Encouraged to Get Eye Exams
The CDC recommends that older adults get regular eye exams to help doctors discover the disease early when treatments can be most effective.
The University of Pennsylvania study showed that patients who kept their eye appointments and received more injections had better visual acuity outcomes.
Researchers, however, said what is more important than the specific number of injections is going to doctor’s appointments which contribute to AMD patients’ visual acuity outcomes.