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Clinical Review

Age related macular degeneration

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 01 March 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:485
  1. Amresh Chopdar, consultant ophthalmologist (,
  2. Usha Chakravarthy, professor, ophthalmology and vision scienceb,
  3. Dinesh Verma, associate professor of clinical ophthalmologyc
  1. a East Surrey Hospital, Redhill, Surrey RH1 5RH
  2. b Queen's University and Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast
  3. c Doheny Retina Institute, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  1. Correspondence to: A Chopdar

    Age related macular degeneration is an increasing problem worldwide. Current treatment options can delay progression, and research continues into ways of reversing retinal damage

    An epidemic of “ageing” is impending in the Western world. According to the latest predictions released by the United Nations, the number of people aged over 60 will triple from 606 million worldwide in 2000 to nearly 2 billion by 2050. The increase in the population aged over 80 is expected to be more than fivefold, from 69 million in 2000 to 379 million by 2050. People aged over 60 constitute about 20% of the population in more developed regions of the world; by 2050 they will probably account for 33%.1 The United Kingdom is predicted to have about 16 million people over the age of 60 by 2040.2 One major implication of this demographic change is the emergence of conditions that are directly related to ageing. Age related macular degeneration is already the leading cause of blindness in the Western world. Between 20 and 25 million people are affected worldwide, a figure that will triple with the increase in the ageing population in the next 30-40 years.2 According to the World Health Organization, 8 million people have severe blindness due to age related macular degeneration, excluding the countries where data are scare.3 In a recent systematic review Fletcher et al estimate that somewhere between 182 000 and 300 000 people in the United Kingdom are blind or partially sighted as a result of age related macular degeneration.4

    Summary points

    The UN estimates the number of people with age related macular degeneration at 20-25 million worldwide; WHO's estimate is 8 million people with severe visual impairment

    The main symptom of non-exudative age related macular degeneration is a gradual increase in difficulty of fine …

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