Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Facts & Figures
Advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of irreversible blindness and visual impairment in the world.1 Nearly 20 million people in the U.S. are living with some form of age-related macular degeneration. Learn the facts about macular degeneration.
Quick Facts about Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration can be very serious.
- Age-related macular degeneration is an irreversible destruction of the macula, 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 is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older.2
- Advanced age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of irreversible blindness and visual impairment in the world.
Macular degeneration is widespread.
- Nearly 20 million adults in the U.S. have some form of age-related macular degeneration. A new study shows an increase in the number of AMD cases that is approximately double the previous estimate. An estimated 18 million people aged 40 and older were living with early-stage macular degeneration in 2019 and 1.49 million people had late-stage macular degeneration.3
- Around 200 million people worldwide are thought to be living with AMD, a number expected to reach 288 million by 2040.7
- Age is a prominent risk factor for age-related macular degeneration. The risk of getting advanced age-related macular degeneration increases from 2% for those ages 50-59, to nearly 30% for those over the age of 75.4
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 are $343 billion, including $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 U.S., 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 for the 733 million people living with low vision and blindness worldwide. In North America alone, the direct cost of vision loss due to all causes was $512.8 billion and the indirect costs were $179 billion.5
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% of diagnosed cases.
- Wet macular degeneration accounts for approximately 10% of cases, but results in 90% 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.6
- 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.
Some patients with macular degeneration will develop geographic atrophy, an advanced and severe form of dry macular degeneration that can lead to permanent vision loss. An estimated five million people worldwide have geographic atrophy, with roughly one million of them living in the U.S.
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.
The first treatment for advanced dry macular degeneration (geographic atrophy) was approved in February 2023; additional promising treatments are in clinical trials. A specific high-dose formula of antioxidant vitamins and zinc may delay or prevent intermediate macular degeneration from progressing to the advanced stage.
- Approved drugs and medications:
- Beovu® (brolucizumab)
- Eylea™ (aflibercept)
- Lucentis® (ranibizumab)
- SUSVIMO™ (ranibizumab injection for intravitreal use via ocular implant)*
- VABYSMO® (faricimab-svoa)
- Photodynamic therapy:
- Treatment that can help control the abnormal blood vessel growth and bleeding in the macula for those with wet macular degeneration.
- Vision rehabilitation and low vision aids:
- Help improve the quality of life for those who are visually impaired.
* As of Oct. 24, 2022, this product is currently under voluntary recall due to a manufacturing problem with the device.
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 in low foods that rapidly raise blood sugar
- 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
- Agents that will prevent new blood vessel growth under the macula
Read about projects funded by Macular Degeneration Research, a BrightFocus Foundation program.
- NEI, “Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration”
- VISION 2020 Global Initiative for the Elimination of Avoidable Blindness: Action plan 2006-2011. World Health Organization, 2007. World Health Organization report called: “Global data on visual impairment 2010” (WHO/NMH/PBD/12.01)
- National Institutes of Health, National Eye Institute. Prevalence of Blindness** Data--Data Tables, Summary of Eye Disease Prevalence Data: “Prevalence of Cataract, Age-Related Macular Degeneration, and Open-Angle Glaucoma Among Adults 40 Years and Older in the United States”
- Access Economics, prepared for AMD Alliance International, The Global Economic Cost of Visual Impairment, March 2010 (all costs are reported in 2008 US dollars) March 16, 2010.
- Original scientific paper: Ferris, F. L. et al. Arch Ophthalmol 1984;102:1640–1642. EyeSmart, eye health information from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
- "Global prevalence of age-related macular degeneration and disease burden projection for 2020 and 2040: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Wan Ling Wong, Xinyi Su, Xiang Li, Chui Ming G Cheung, Ronald Klein, Ching-Yu Chen, Tien Yin Wong. The Lancet. Volume 2, No. 2, e106–e116, February 2014. Editorial/Summary
** Blindness as defined by the U.S. definition is the best-corrected visual acuity of 6/60 or worse (=20/200) in the better-seeing eye; low vision is defined as the best-corrected visual acuity less than 6/12 (<20/40) in the better-seeing eye (excluding those who were categorized as being blind by the U.S. definition.)