Intended for healthcare professionals


Prevention of age related macular degeneration

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 06 July 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1

Current evidence suggests that vitamin E alone is unlikely to have a large protective effect

  1. Nigel F Hall, ophthalmologist (,
  2. Catharine R Gale, senior research fellow.
  1. MRC Environmental Epidemiology Unit, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, SO16 6YD

    Papers p 11

    Age related macular degeneration may be recognised in its early stages by the appearance of drusen and pigment change within the retina, but it produces few symptoms. Progression of age related macular degeneration can result in irreversible visual loss and is the commonest cause of blindness in the Western world. New treatments such as photodynamic therapy and macular surgery may limit the extent of visual loss and in a few cases even restore sight.1 But in contrast with cataract surgery, outcomes are unpredictable and the treatment is burdensome for patients and carries massive resource implications for healthcare providers. The prospect of prevention is thus very appealing from the public health perspective, not to mention that of the patient who may be at risk of losing the ability to recognise faces, read a newspaper, or to live independently. Increasing evidence suggests that cumulative oxidative damage increases risk of age related macular degeneration.2 But evidence from trials and reviews suggests that the antioxidant vitamin E, used alone, does not seem to have a protective effect against age related macular degeneration. …

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