As we grow older, the macula -- the part of the retina that is responsible for sharp central vision -- tends to deteriorate. Today this fact is significant because a large segment of our population is not just growing older, but living longer than ever before. In 2005, there were 78.2 million Baby Boomers. In 2006, 8,000 people turned 60 each day
. Because of this, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) stands to affect a growing percentage of the population for an even greater amount of their lifetimes. In fact, according for the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), age-related eye diseases are expected to double over the next three decades.
The potential for a vision loss epidemic has spurred extensive research. Following are VisiVite's summaries of some of the most important age-related macular degeneration news, studies, analyses and statistics.
AMD Fast Stats:
National Eye Institute Endorses Supplements for AMD
- 1.8 million Americans over the age of 40 have AMD
- 7.3 million Americans with drusen are at high risk of developing AMD
- It is projected that nearly 3 million people will have AMD by the year 2020
- AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in adults over age 65
- Risk of AMD development between ages 40 and 50 is 2%
- Risk of AMD development in those over age 75 is 30%
- Diabetes-related AMD is expected to triple from 2005 two 2050 -- from 5.5 million to 16 million people
In 2006, the National Eye Institute (NEI) reported in its National Eye Health Education Program Literature Review
that nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin improve visual function in patients with AMD. The NEI also reported that "If supplementation were in widespread use among individuals at risk for developing AMD, vision loss could be prevented in more than 300,000 people
over the age of 55 during a five-year period."
Macular Degeneration Increases Heart Attack and Stroke Risk
Australian researchers have found a link between AMD and cardiovascular problems. A study conducted by the Center for Vision Research in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Sydney has found that individuals under the age of 75 who have AMD have double the risk of heart attack or stroke
. These results seem to suggest a correlation between the eye health, cardiovascular health and overall well-being.
Exercise Reduces the Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology
has found that physical activity appears to reduce the risk of AMD. The study's researchers noted that cardiovascular disease and AMD share common risk factors. Their study evaluated nearly 4,000 men and women between the ages of 43 and 86 over the course of 15 years. At the study's conclusion, researchers found that those who engaged in regular physical activity reduced their risk of developing AMD by 70%. Even those who simply walked more were found to reduce their risk of AMD by 30%.
Off-Label Use of Cancer Drug Avastin May Help with AMD
A recent clinical trial performed at the University of Madison, Wisconsin, School of Medicine and Public Health has found that the cancer drug Avastin appears to be effective in treating AMD
. The study also included the FDA-approved AMD drug Lucentis, which has been found to be highly effective in treating wet AMD. Over 1,000 patients with AMD at 43 different treatment centers across the United States were randomly assigned one of four different treatment protocols and evaluated over the course of one year. Researchers discovered that vision improvement in the Lucentis and Avastin groups was almost identical. These results are especially significant because a dose of Avastin costs about $50, as compared to $2,000 for a single dose of Lucentis.
AREDS Study Shows Promise for AMD Prevention
The US National Eye Institute initiated the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) to examine how antioxidants might help to ward off AMD. Over the course of six years, the study tracked 4,700 subjects between the ages of 55-80. At the study's conclusion, researchers reported that a high dose combination
of the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene, along with minerals zinc and copper, appear to reduce the risk of AMD-related vision loss by 25%
. A follow-up study further found that a high intake of the natural carotenoid antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin was also associated with reduced risk of AMD.
Coming Soon: AREDS2 Results
In 2006, the National Eye Institute launched a follow-up study to AREDS called AREDS2. This study is investigating if an altered combination of select eye vitamins
may be even more effective than the original AREDS formula at warding off AMD. The AREDS2 study focuses on two antioxidant carotenoids that have been found to be especially effective in promoting eye health: lutein and zeaxanthin. AREDS2 is also investigating how the Omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may affect AMD onset and progression. The AREDS2 study results are due to be released in 2013.
Study Links Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Fish Intake with a Lower Risk of AMD in Women
Recent research continues to validate the vision-protective role of Omega-3s EPA and DHA. A study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology
in 2011 examined whether intake of Omega-3 fatty acids in fish had any impact on the incidence of AMD in women. Researchers analyzed health professionals' examinations of nearly 40,000 women with an average age of 55. After 10 years of follow-up, researchers concluded that regular intake of EPA, DHA and fish was associated with a significantly lower risk of AMD onset
. Researchers concluded that consumption of these omega-3 fatty acids in fish may be of benefit in primary prevention of AMD. Vision health supplements that include Omega-3s
may offer similar benefits.