A simple vitamin supplement could significantly reduce the number of people with vision loss from age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, finds a new study.
AMD, which is caused by a deterioration of the retina, is the number one cause of blindness among older people. A couple of years ago, researchers conducted a large study to see if a combination of the antioxidant vitamins C, E, and beta carotene, along with zinc oxide or zinc alone could slow down or prevent AMD among those considered at high risk for the advanced form of the condition. Results showed a significant effect for those taking the high dose supplements.
In this study, investigators from the Age-Related Eye Disease Research Group built on those results by estimating the impact the supplements could have on the total population of people at risk for developing advanced AMD. First, they estimated about 8 million people 55 and older have early signs of AMD and are at high risk of developing advanced disease and significant vision loss. About 1.3 million, they say, would go on to develop advanced AMD without preventative treatment.
The investigators' model suggests more than 300,000 of these people could avoid advanced AMD over the next five years if they took the vitamin supplements recommended by the earlier study.
They write, "Avoiding the development of advanced AMD can have a major effect on the quality of life for an individual ... These data suggest that the recommendations of such a supplement for those individuals should have a major impact on them as well as on the public health."