MONDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- 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 percent 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 percent, according to the study published in the January issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.
This finding has important implications for public health, said Dr. Ronald Klein, 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 percent.
"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 relationships of these exposures to AMD in patients at risk and their physicians and eye care providers will continue to result in further decline of the prevalence of AMD in the population."
The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about age-related macular degeneration.
-- Robert Preidt
SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Jan. 10, 2011
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