By Adrian Galbreth
Although age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most frequent cause of blindness in the developed world, the number of people contracting the condition appears to be decreasing.
A new report from the University of Copenhagen and Glostrup Hospital in Denmark shows that the number of new cases of blindness and severe visual loss in Denmark over the last ten years has halved – a figure which could reflect trends across the globe.
Published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, the study examined the records of 11,848 new cases of legal blindness and found that the rate of blindness caused by AMD fell from 522 cases per one million inhabitants aged 50 years or older in 2000 to 257 cases per one million in 2010.
In the majority of cases, the decrease occurred after 2006, following the introduction of new effective treatment for wet AMD comprising repeated injections that inhibits the signalling molecule vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).
Although only based in Denmark, the study corroborated a report from Israel that found comparable changes in the incidence of legal blindness in that country and experts believe a similar reduction in rates worldwide may soon emerge.
Michael Larsen, professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at the University of Copenhagen and one of the authors behind the Danish study, said he is excited about the results.
"The massive implementation of modern wet AMD therapy has been a challenge. It is therefore very important that we can now show an impact on public health and it is wonderful to see a reduction in severe visual loss," he explained.
"The study did not examine moderate visual loss, but there are undoubtedly also a lot of people who avoided loosing their drivers licence and their reading vision."
Thorkild Olesen, chairman of the Danish Association of the Blind, said he is looking forward to seeing further progress in eye research, especially in the hereditary eye diseases that cause blindness.
by Adrian Galbreth