Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible vision impairment in older adults. In America alone, a whopping 14 million people suffer from this disorder!
What's even more frightening is that a recent study published in JAMA Ophthalmology has determined that little is known about whether AMD is properly diagnosed in primary eye care. Read on for the full scoop.
Study finds that 25% of eyes deemed to be normal have macular characteristics that indicate age-related macular degeneration
The study was led by David C Neely, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Ophthalmology. For their study, Neely and his team looked at 644 people 60 years or older with an average age of 69 who had normal macular health based on an eye examination by a primary eye care ophthalmologist or optometrist.
All in all, their sample consisted of 1,288 eyes that were seen by 31 primary eye care ophthalmologists or optometrists. A total of 75% of eyes had no AMD, in agreement with their medical record, while 25% had AMD despite no diagnosis of AMD in their medical record.
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The team concluded that 25% of people whose eyes were deemed to be normal and healthy based on dilated eye examinations performed by either a primary eye care ophthalmologist or optometrist actually had macular characteristics that indicate AMD.
Furthermore, among these people with undiagnosed AMD, 78% had small deposits under the retina known as drusen – 78% had intermediate drusen and 30% had large drusen.
Researchers associated underdiagnosed age-related macular degeneration with older patient age and male sex
According to the study, risk factors for underdiagnosed AMD included older patient age, male sex and, surprisingly, less than high school education.
“The reasons underlying AMD underdiagnoses in primary eye care remain unclear,” Neely reported. “As treatments for the earliest stages of AMD are developed in the coming years, correct identification of AMD in primary eye care will be critical for routing patients to treatment as soon as possible so that the disease can be treated in its earliest phases and central vision loss avoided,” he added.
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