A White Paper issued today by AMD Alliance International (AMDAI) reports that the impact of vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) on patients’ Quality of Life and psychological well-being is comparable to that of cancer or coronary heart disease. The White Paper also shows the diagnosis of AMD and the threat of blindness increases depression and the risk of suicide.
America’s leading vision, seniors and research organizations have joined forces, under the umbrella of AMD Alliance International, to call on health policy makers, healthcare professionals and the AMD community to take immediate action to combat the risks of depression, suicide and social isolation linked to age related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in the USA. According to AMD Alliance International, the dire consequences of AMD can be prevented by early detection, measures taken during diagnosis, and providing access to low vision rehabilitation and support services. More than 15 million American seniors live with some form of AMD, and this number is expected to reach potentially epidemic proportions as the population ages.
“AMD is no longer just about vision loss. It’s also about mental health and quality of life, which is why identifying and catching AMD at its earliest stages is critical. People, especially those over 50, must have regular eye examinations,” said Don Curran, Chairman, AMD Alliance International and AMD patient. “Further, health policy makers need to acknowledge that quality of life is an important patient outcome and recognize the urgent need to provide timely access to physicians, treatments, and support services to limit the damage caused by AMD. The pieces for optimal AMD care exist, but the puzzle must be put together. A good life with AMD is very possible, with the right supports at the right time.” According to Dr. Tara Cortes, RN, PhD President and CEO, Lighthouse International, “Early detection and treatment are essential, especially for those with wet macular degeneration. In addition, in many cases, low vision rehabilitation and counseling is the right support. We must accelerate our efforts to make low vision rehabilitation available to all those who need it.”
The White Paper, issued to kick off the 2006 AMD Awareness Week, September 18 to 24, 2006, also marks the start of a global outreach campaign to raise awareness of the little-known psychological effects of AMD. The campaign aims to demonstrate that basic supports to improve AMD patients’ quality of life – early access to medical expertise, early diagnosis and treatment, and referral to appropriate low vision programs, including counseling – are vital. As AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in the Western World in people 50 and older, and with cases rising as the baby boomer generation ages, more people are at risk of suffering from more than just vision loss.
People with vision loss are more than three times as likely to suffer from depression versus the general population. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide, a tragic fatality associated with the loss of about 850,000 lives worldwide every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Further studies included in the White Paper analysis show quality of life for an AMD patient to be an underestimated outcome at both the clinical and public levels. Other studies show that the inclusion of low-vision care services help to reduce the negative impact of the AMD diagnosis, empower patients and help them adjust to living with the disease.
In addition to an increased risk of depression, the White Paper notes how AMD adversely affects day to day life. People with AMD are eight times more likely to have difficulties shopping, 12 times more likely to have problems using a telephone and nine times more likely to experience difficulties doing simple house work. The condition also puts patients at higher risk of accidents such as hip fractures, and many with the disease are unable to drive. All of these factors together lead to depression and sense of isolation that many people with AMD needlessly experience.
“Education, awareness, and good clinical care are important in reducing the impact of AMD on the quality of life. At the same time, investments in research are leading to more effective therapies to limit the effects of the disease,” says Stephen Rose, Ph.D., Chief Research Officer, Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB). “Our goal is to fund research that will put an end to all retinal degenerative diseases including AMD. FFB-funded researchers are making excellent progress in identifying the genetic and lifestyle factors that lead to AMD, and they are moving promising preventions, treatments, and cures into clinical trials and the marketplace.”
AMD is a degenerative disease that affects the central part of the retina – the area responsible for central vision, which allows us to read, drive and recognize faces. As central vision breaks down, only peripheral vision remains. There are two types of AMD: wet and dry. Dry AMD is the most common form of the disease, accounting for about 80 per cent of all cases. Dry AMD occurs when light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down. Approximately 10 to 20 per cent of cases will progress to wet AMD. Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels are formed under and leak into the macula. Blood vessel growth in wet AMD progresses much more rapidly than the dry form and accounts for the majority of cases in which severe vision loss occur.
AMD causes more than 14 million cases of visual impairment worldwide each year. More than 15 million American seniors live with some form of AMD, and this number is expected to reach potentially epidemic proportions as the population ages. AMD is even more prevalent among people who smoke. Evidence shows that smoking doubles the risk of developing AMD, while some studies suggest the risk could be as high as three- to four-fold. The World Health Organization recognizes smoking as the only modifiable risk factor for AMD. For more detailed information about AMD, consult http://www.amdalliance.org.
About AMD Alliance International
The AMD Alliance International is a global non-profit coalition of vision, seniors’ and research organisations working to raise awareness of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in older populations. The AMD Alliance International promote regular eye examinations and provide education about prevention, treatments, rehabilitation, and support services available for AMD. Comprising 55 organisations in 22 countries, the AMD Alliance International is the only international organisation focused exclusively on AMD.
The mission of the Alliance is “to bring knowledge, help and hope to individuals and families around the world affected by AMD through:
– Generating awareness and understanding of AMD;
– Promoting the importance of education, early detection, knowledge of
treatment and rehabilitation options; and
– Preserving vision and improving the quality of life of individuals
affected by AMD.”
The American members of AMD Alliance International who join forces in this awareness effort are (in alphabetical order) The Alliance for Aging Research, The Deicke Centre for Visual Rehabilitation, The Foundation Fighting Blindness, Lighthouse International, Macular Degeneration Partnership, Macular Degeneration Support, Prevent Blindness America, and The Seniors Coalition.