Prevention of Blindness and Visual Impairment

Priority eye diseases


Age-related macular degeneration

Definition

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition affecting older people, and involves the loss of the person's central field of vision. It occurs when the macular (or central) retina develops degenerative lesions. It is thought that circulatory insufficiency, with reduction in the blood flow to the macular area, also plays a part. Several forms of AMD exist.

Magnitude

Globally, AMD ranks third as a cause of blindness after cataract and glaucoma. It is the primary cause in industrialized countries. The main risk factor is ageing. Other risk factors may include the use of tobacco, genetic tendencies, the degree of pigmentation (with light coloured eyes being at higher risk), arterial hypertension, the ultraviolet rays, and consumption of a non-balanced diet.

Prevention and treatment

At present, the available evidence points to the relevence of smoking prevention and cessation as inducive to preventing incidence of AMD. As for the cure of the disease, there is at present no definitive treatment. Palliative treatments which are able to retard the progress of the disease include the use of intravitreous drugs, lasers, dynamic phototherapy and sometimes surgery. The early beginning of rehabilitation for those with the disease includes psycological support, mobility and life skills to continue conducting a full life experience and face no limitations, as well as adaptation of the living and work places, and the use of special aids for reading and computer use.

WHO Role

WHO is working with an international expert panel to develop the most appropriate approach to the management of AMD in a Public Health framework, together with the other main chronic eye diseases.

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