Scientists in Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) have, for the first time, described the prevalence of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in the Irish population. The study was carried out by the Macular Research Pigment Group (MPRG) in the Vision Research Centre in WIT as part of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging (TILDA). The study will inform eye care professionals and policymakers involved in the delivery and planning of care for people diagnosed with AMD.
Data for this study was collected from 4,859 adults living in the Republic of Ireland. Participants were all adults over 50 living in the community. Retinal photographs were obtained for these participants and examined for the presence of any form of AMD.
Results showed the prevalence of any form of AMD in people over 50 to be 7.2%. Based on the retinal photographs, participants showing signs of AMD were also categorised by type of AMD. There are two forms of AMD, Early and Late. In Early AMD the signs that the retina is being damaged are only visible to an eye care practitioner. At this stage the damage does not affect sight and people are unaware of the condition. In this study, the estimated prevalence of early AMD was 6.6%, and the estimated prevalence of late AMD was 0.6%.
Some people progress from Early to Late AMD, where the condition causes loss of vision. This highlights the importance of regular eye examinations to detect AMD in its early stages. There are two forms of Late AMD, Dry (atrophic) AMD and Wet (neovascular) AMD. The wet form is more severe and vision degenerates more rapidly. The dry form is less severe and vision degenerates over a longer period of time. In this study, the prevalence of dry (atrophic) AMD was 0.3%, and the prevalence of wet (neovascular) AMD was also 0.3%.
Consistent with other studies on this condition, the researchers found that the prevalence of AMD increases with increasing age. They also found a strong association between a family history of AMD and the prevalence of the condition. This is the first time that a study on the prevalence of AMD has been carried out in the Irish population and the results will inform healthcare providers and planning into the future.
AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in this age group, with the number of people affected due to increase in the coming years due to our aging population. Click here for more information about age-related macular degeneration (AMD).