The rate of age-related macular degeneration, a major cause of vision loss in the United States, has decreased in the last 15 years, a new study finds.
Researchers analyzed data from 7,081 people, aged 40 and older, who took part in the 2005 to 2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The participants were assessed for signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and about 6.5% were found to have the disease.
The 1988 to 1994 NHANES found that the rate of AMD among Americans aged 40 and older was 9.4%, according to the study published in Archives of Ophthalmology.
This finding has important implications for public health, said Ronald Klein, MD, MPH, of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and colleagues.
The most recent data also showed that blacks aged 60 and older had a lower rate of AMD than whites in the same age group, and that the rate of late (more advanced) AMD among all the participants was 0.8%.
"These [new] estimates are consistent with a decreasing incidence of AMD reported in another population-based study and have important public health implications, the researchers wrote in a journal news release.
"The decreasing prevalence of AMD may reflect recent change in the frequency of smoking and other exposures such as diet, physical activity and blood pressure associated with AMD." they suggested. It remains to be seen whether public health programs designed to increase awareness of the risk factors for AMD will result in further decline of the prevalence of the disease in the population.
Diet and Lifestyle May Reduce Risk for Eye Disease
Age-related macular degeneration is the A leading cause of blindness in the United States and many European countries. The neovascular or "wet" form of the disease is responsible for 90% of cases of severe vision loss.
Cigarette smoking, sun exposure, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are thought to increase a person's risk of macular degeneration. In addition, says the Macular Degeneration Network, certain dietary staples can reduce your risk.
Antioxidant-rich foods such as kale, spinach, celery, broccoli, green beans, peas and peppers can help prevent the condition and the onset of its symptoms. Dietary supplements of vitamins C, E, beta-carotene and zinc can also help protect the retina from macular degeneration.