Corporate media likes to shock or enrage people so when it comes to science stories, the ridiculous - life on other planets, billions 'wasted' on curing cancer, Republicans hate science - often takes precedent over the quiet wins.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most frequent cause of blindness in the Western World, has been one of those quiet wins that won't get much attention in traditional consumer media but luckily you are reading Science 2.0. A report published today in the American Journal of Ophthalmology shows the number of new cases of blindness and severe visual loss in Denmark has been halved during the last ten years, thanks to the introduction of new effective treatment for wet AMD, which is characterized by leaking blood vessels having formed under the fovea. The treatment consists of repeated injections into the eye of a medication that inhibits the signaling molecule vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).
The study examined the records of 11,848 new cases of legal blindness. The rate of blindness from AMD fell from 522 cases per million inhabitants aged 50 years or older in 2000, to 257 cases per million in 2010, a reduction by over 50 per cent.
Current treatment of wet AMD, also called neovascular AMD, consists of repeated injections into the vitreous, an inner compartment of the eye, of a medication designed to inhibit the action of VEGF. VEGF is a distress signal released from ailing cells of the aging retina. VEGF can cause formation of brittle blood vessels that leak blood and cause scar formation under the fovea. The fovea is central area of the retina where reading vision is located. Wet AMD is a very frequent cause of loss of reading vision.
The observations from Denmark were published together with a corroborating report from Israel, "Time Trends in the Incidence and Causes of Blindness in Israel", that found comparable changes in the incidence of legal blindness in that country.
The data for the study is provided by Danish Association of the Blind, which membership enrolment during the period of 2000-2010 was charted and categorized by diagnoses.
Michael Larsen, Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at the University of Copenhagen, said, ”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. 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.”
Citation: Sara Brandi Bloch, Michael Larsen, Inger Christine Munch, 'Incidence of Legal Blindness From Age-Related Macular Degeneration in Denmark: Year 2000 to 2010', American Journal of Ophthalmology Volume 153, Issue 2 , Pages 209-213.e2, February 2012 doi:10.1016/j.ajo.2011.10.016
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