Number of people with the leading cause of blindness will rise by 10million in Europe by 2050 ‘because people are living longer’
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affected 67million Europeans in 2015
- It causes blind spots to appear in the eyes as the macula wears down and fails
- Ageing populations mean the condition will become more widespread in future
The leading cause of blindness could affect 10million more people in Europe by 2050.
Scientists say age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is on the rise because more people are surviving into old age.
And they predict rates of the condition will rise by 15 per cent – from 67million in 2015 to 77million.
Advanced stages of the condition will become more common as well, they said, meaning there will be increasing numbers of blind or nearly-blind people.
Age-related macular degeneration is Europe’s leading cause of blindness or seriously impaired vision and affects some 600,000 people in the UK alone (stock image)
Researchers from the University of Bonn in Germany looked at existing rates of the disease to try and predict how its impact would increase in future.
They used data from 26 studies covering more than 55,323 people, many of them between the ages of 60 and 81.
Using this data they estimated that, every year by 2050, there would be 1.4 new cases per 1,000 people over the age of 50.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a painless eye condition that leads to a gradual loss of central vision.
It is the most common cause of visual impairment in the UK and US.
AMD causes central vision to become blurred resulting in symptoms such as difficulty reading and problems recognising people’s faces.
It occurs when the macular – the part of the eye responsible for central vision – stops functioning effectively.
AMD usually affects both eyes, but the speed of progression can vary between eyes.
It is thought to be triggered by aging, smoking and genetics.
Among under-50s this rate would be 0.5 per 1,000 and for the over-70s it would be 6.7 per 1,000, the scientists wrote in the British Medical Journal.
‘This will require considerable additional healthcare service and resource allocation, which should be considered already today in all European healthcare systems,’ said the Bonn researchers, led by Dr Jeany Li.
Age-related macular degeneration is a condition in which the macula – a part of the light-sensing retina at the back of the eye – begins to wear down and fail.
Symptoms can begin with a blurred or distorted area of someone’s vision which may then progress to a blank spot.
This can later lead to a complete loss of vision in the centre of the eyes, but it doesn’t affect the peripheral (side) vision so doesn’t lead to total blindness.
Its causes aren’t well understood but people who smoke, have high blood pressure or are overweight are thought to be at higher risk. Damage it causes cannot be reversed.
The Bonn team’s research suggests the number of existing AMD cases will rise by 15 per cent in that time, while the number of new cases each year will rocket by 75 per cent.
People aged 75 and older would see the steepest increase in AMD rates, rising from 50million to 57.6m and of those, 12m would have advanced AMD, up from 10m in 2015.
New cases of advanced AMD will increase from 400,000 each year to 700,000 by 2050, and Germany would be the country worst affected, the scientists said.
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