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Drugs Aging. 2002;19(2):101-33.

Age-related macular degeneration: epidemiology and optimal treatment.

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  • 1Eye Department, National University Hospital (Rigshospitalet), Copenhagen, Denmark.


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common macular disease affecting elderly people in the Western world. It is characterised by the appearance of drusen in the macula, accompanied by choroidal neovascularisation (CNV) or geographic atrophy. The disease is more common in Caucasian individuals than in pigmented races. In predominantly Caucasian populations, the age-standardised prevalence of AMD in at least one eye is 7760 cases per million. The age-standardised cumulated 1-year incidence of AMD in at least one eye is 1051 cases per million individuals. AMD is the most important single cause of blindness among Caucasian individuals in developed countries. Blindness resulting from AMD rarely occurs before age 70, and most cases occur after age 80. The age-standardised 1-year incidence of legal blindness resulting from AMD is 212 cases per million. Two-thirds of AMD cases have CNV (exudative cases); the remainder has only geographic atrophy. In cross-sectional population-based studies about 45% of eyes with AMD have visual acuity reduced to 20/200 or worse. This is true both for exudative AMD and pure geographic atrophy. Age and genetic predisposition are known risk factors for AMD. Smoking is probably also a risk factor. Preventive strategies using macular laser photocoagulation are under investigation, but their efficacy in preventing visual loss is as yet unproven. There is no treatment with proven efficacy for geographic atrophy. Optimal treatment for exudative AMD requires a fluorescein angiographic study and a physician capable of interpreting it. For CNV not involving the foveal centre, the only evidence-based treatment is laser photocoagulation. For AMD cases with subfoveal CNV, good visual acuity, and predominantly classic fluorescence pattern on fluorescein angiography, photodynamic therapy with verteporfin is the treatment of choice. Photodynamic therapy is also effective in eyes with pure occult CNV and evidence of recent disease progression. For new subfoveal CNV with poor vision and recurrent CNV, laser photocoagulation can be considered.

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