The rate of age-related macular degeneration, a major cause of vision loss for Americans, has significantly decreased in the last 15 years, a new study claims.

Researchers analyzed a 2005 to 2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) taken by 7,081 people over the age of 40. Participatns were assessed for signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The study revealed that only 6.5 percent had the disease.

However, in 1988 to 1994, 9.4 percent of those surveyed had it, according to the study published in the January issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.

“These [new] estimates are consistent with a decreasing incidence of AMD reported in another population-based study and have important public health implications,” researchers wrote in a journal news release.

Data also revealed that blacks aged 60 and older have a lower rate of AMD than whites in the same age group. More advanced stages of AMD were low; only 0.8 percent of the participants had a severe case.

“The decreasing prevalence of AMD may reflect recent change in the frequency of smoking and other exposures such as diet, physical activity and blood pressure associated with AMD,” researchers said. “It remains to be seen whether public health programs designed to increase awareness of the relationships of these exposures to AMD in patients at risk and their physicians and eye care providers will continue to result in further decline of the prevalence of AMD in the population.”


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