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Age-Related Macular Degeneration

1/9/24 Importance  Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects approximately 20 million people in the US and 196 million people worldwide. AMD is a leading cause of severe vision impairment in older people and is expected to affect approximately 288 million people worldwide by 2040.

Observations  Older age, genetic factors, and environmental factors, such as cigarette smoking, are associated with development of AMD. AMD occurs when extracellular deposits accumulate in the outer retina, ultimately leading to photoreceptor degeneration and loss of central vision. The late stages of AMD are characterized by outer retinal atrophy, termed geographic atrophy, or neovascularization associated with subretinal and/or intraretinal exudation, termed exudative neovascular AMD. The annual incidence of AMD ranges from 0.3 per 1000 in people who are aged 55 to 59 years to 36.7 per 1000 in people aged 90 years or older. The estimated heritability of late-stage AMD is approximately 71% (95% CI, 18%-88%). Long-term prospective cohort studies show a significantly higher AMD incidence in people who smoke more than 20 cigarettes per day compared with people who never smoked. AMD is diagnosed primarily with clinical examination that includes a special lens that focuses light of the slit lamp through the pupil. Exudative neovascular AMD is best identified using angiography and by optical coherence tomography. Individuals with AMD who take nutritional supplements consisting of high-dose vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, and zinc have a 20% probability to progress to late-stage AMD at 5 years vs a 28% probability for those taking a placebo. In exudative neovascular AMD, 94.6% of patients receiving monthly intravitreal anti–vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) injections experience less than a 15-letter visual acuity loss after 12 months compared with 62.2% receiving sham treatment.

Conclusions and Relevance  The prevalence of AMD is anticipated to increase worldwide to 288 million individuals by 2040. Intravitreally administered anti-VEGF treatment is first-line therapy for exudative neovascular AMD.

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