Macular Degeneration Facts & Statistics
Age-related macular degeneration is an irreversible destruction of the macula (the central area of the eye's retina), which leads to loss of the sharp, fine-detail, “straight ahead” vision required for activities like reading, driving, recognizing faces, and seeing the world in color.
Macular degeneration can be very serious.
- Macular degeneration is the second-highest cause of irreversible blindness in the world.
- Macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older.
Macular degeneration is widespread.
- The number of people living with macular degeneration today is similar to that of those who have all types of cancer.
- As many as 11 million people in the United States have some form of age-related macular degeneration. This number is expected to double to nearly 22 million by 2050.
- Age is a prominent risk factor for age-related macular degeneration. 3.8 percent of Americans between the ages of 50-59 have either intermediate or advanced age-related macular degeneration; by ages 70-79, this increases to 14.4 percent.
- A large study found that people in middle age have about a 2% risk of getting AMD, but this risk increased to nearly 30% in those over age 75.
- Medicare beneficiaries who had age-related macular degeneration increased from 5% to 27.1% from 1991 to 1999.
Macular degeneration is expensive, and will only become more expensive as the population aged 65 and older increases.
- Estimates of the global cost of visual impairment due to age-related macular degeneration is US$343 billion, including US$255 billion in direct health care costs.
- Estimates of the direct health care costs of visual impairment due to age-related macular degeneration in the US, Canada, and Cuba (WHO subregion AMR-A), collectively, is approximately US$98 billion.
- The global cost of vision loss due to all causes is estimated to be nearly $3 trillion dollars for the 733 million people living with low vision and blindness worldwide. In North America alone, the direct cost for vision loss due to all causes was $512.8 billion, and the indirect costs were $179 billion.
- Direct medical costs of age-related macular degeneration are substantially higher among the population aged 65 years and older than in the population aged 40 to 64 years.
There are two forms of macular degeneration: dry and wet.
- The dry form of macular degeneration, in which the light sensitive cells of the macula slowly break down, is the most common type, accounting for 90 percent of diagnosed cases.
- Wet macular degeneration accounts for approximately 10 percent of cases, but results in 90 percent of legal blindness. It is considered advanced macular degeneration (there is no early or intermediate stage of wet macular degeneration). Wet macular degeneration is always preceded by the dry form of the disease.
- It is possible for dry macular degeneration to advance and cause loss of vision without turning into the wet form of the disease; however, it is also possible for early-stage dry age-related macular degeneration to suddenly change into the wet form.
An eye care professional can help diagnose macular degeneration and determine which form(s) of the disease you have.
- To help diagnose macular degeneration, an eye care professional will perform a dilated eye exam, fundoscopy, a visual acuity test, and fundus photography. If wet age-related macular degeneration is suspected, fluorescein angiography may be performed, in which dye is used to detect leaking blood vessels. The patient may also be asked to look at an Amsler grid.
Despite it's serious implications, many people are not aware of macular degeneration.
- On a scale of 1-10, with 10 indicating the greatest impact on daily life, 71% of adults say that loss of eyesight ranks a 10. However, only 52% of adults 18 and older report that they have heard of macular degeneration.
Currently, there is no treatment or cure for advanced dry macular degeneration; however, a specific high-dose formula of antioxidant vitamins and zinc may delay or prevent intermediate macular degeneration from progressing to the advanced stage.
- EYLEA™ (aflibercept), Lucentis® (ranibizumab injection), Macugen® (pegaptanib sodium injection), laser photocoagulation, and photodynamic therapy are treatments that can help control the abnormal blood vessel growth and bleeding in the macula for those with wet macular degeneration. Physicians have also used Avastin™ (bevacizumab injection), a cancer therapy manufactured by the company that makes Lucentis, as an “off-label” treatment for wet macular degeneration.
- The injectable medications, such as Lucentis (ranibizumab), are effectively reducing damage from wet age-related macular degeneration; vision stabilizes in more than 90% of patients and actually improves in more than 30%.
- Vision rehabilitation and low vision aids can help improve the quality of life for those who are visually impaired.
A healthy lifestyle may help reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration.
- The following lifestyle changes are recommended: Don't smoke, exercise regularly, keep blood pressure in a normal range and control other medical conditions, maintain a healthy weight, eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables and fish, and protect eyes from overexposure to sunlight with sunglasses and hats.
Ongoing research is exploring environmental, genetic and dietary factors that may contribute to macular degeneration. New treatment strategies are also being investigated, including retinal cell transplants, drugs to prevent or slow disease progress, radiation therapy, gene therapies, a computer chip implanted in the retina that may help simulate vision, and agents that will prevent new blood vessel growth under the macula. If you have been diagnosed with macular degeneration, don't be afraid to use your eyes for reading, watching TV, and other daily activities. Normal use of your eyes will not increase damage to your vision.
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Source: Some of the information in this fact sheet was obtained from the National Eye Institute.
Last Review: 08/23/13