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Inflammatory Substance May Boost Eye Trouble

C-reactive protein raises odds of age-related macular degeneration, experts say

MONDAY, Oct. 8 (HealthDay News) -- People with high blood levels of C-reactive protein, a substance associated with inflammation, may be at higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a major cause of vision loss in older adults.

Dutch researchers collected blood samples and took photographs of the eyes of more than 4,900 people at risk for AMD. They then followed the group for an average of 7.7 years.

During that time, 658 of the participants were diagnosed with AMD -- 561 with initial stage AMD and 97 with advanced AMD.

As an individual's C-reactive protein level increased above the midpoint of the study group, the person became more and more likely to develop AMD, the researchers found.

The study is published in the October issue of the journal Archives of Ophthalmology.

The findings suggest that lowering C-reactive protein levels may help decrease AMD risk, the study authors said.

"A substance that can selectively inhibit C-reactive protein synthesis has not yet been developed, to our knowledge," wrote a team from Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam. "Smoking and high body mass index increase C-reactive protein levels. Moderate alcohol intake, diets with a low glycemic index and statin [drugs] and multivitamin use reduce C-reactive protein levels."

It's known that smoking and obesity increase the risk of AMD, which occurs when the macula -- the area at the back of the retina involved in sharp vision -- deteriorates over time.

More information

The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about AMD.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Oct. 8, 2007

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