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Race May Affect Macular Degeneration

Study Shows Older Whites More Likely Than African-Americans to Develop Age-Related Macular Degeneration
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 11, 2008 -- Whites over the age of 65 may face a higher risk of losing their sight due to macular degeneration than African-Americans.

A new study of more than 2,500 elderly people shows whites are more likely than African-Americans to show early signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Whites also had higher rates of advanced AMD than African-Americans.

Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss among the elderly. Early symptoms include the appearance of large yellow or white spots in the retina.

Previous studies have also suggested that whites may have higher rates of age-related macular degeneration than African-Americans.

Race Plays Role in AMD

In the new study, researcher Susan Bressler, MD, of the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, and colleagues analyzed the eyes 2,520 men and women over 65, including 1,854 whites and 666 blacks. Photographs of their eyes were evaluated for early signs of age-related macular degeneration, such as drusen (deposits in the eye) and abnormal blood vessel growth.

The results showed that larger drusen and confluent drusen were more likely to be found in whites than African-Americans. Whites also had higher rates of advanced AMD (1.7%) compared with African-Americans (1%) for one form as well as another form of advanced AMD known as geographic atrophy (1.8% vs. 0.3%).

Researchers say those signs suggest that whites are more likely to progress to potentially blindness-inducing AMD than African-Americans and more study is needed to determine what factors protect African-Americans from developing age-related macular degeneration.

The results appear in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

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