Nearly every reliable resource on age-related macular degeneration (AMD) will reveal that more women than men are affected by the disease. Some even go so far as to offer questionable statistics like “About 2/3 of people with AMD are women and 1/3 men”.(1) To explain, writers offer that women live longer than men, or that women are more likely than men to report their physical maladies. So far, though, such evidence has been strictly empirical.
Now a small study reported in Biological Psychiatry (2) may provide a rationale for a third, more science-based, explanation of this gender discrepancy. The answer, it seems, might lie in the different inflammatory responses of men and women. The study team found that women tend to have higher levels of inflammation than men, leading to disorders such as depression, which “women experience at a far greater rate than men, particularly for the kinds of depression that may be inflammatory in nature”, said senior author Naomi Eisenberger, PhD.
While other researchers have found a link between inflammation and depression, this study went a step further by identifying the gender difference. The findings raise the question, “If women are more vulnerable than men to chronic inflammatory disorders, and since research has shown a direct causal relationship between inflammation and AMD (3), then could this study offer support to the observation that more women than men are affected by AMD?”
It may not be the most important question in the field of eye care and treatment, and it is not pertinent to further study of the relationship between inflammation and depression, but it would be an interesting side path to follow.
By Dan Roberts
1. What Causes Age-Related Macular Degeneration? (WebMD. Published online at https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/macular-degeneration/age-related-macular-degeneration-causes#2)
2. Sex Differences in the Relationship Between Inflammation and Reward Sensitivity: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Endotoxin. MonaMoieni, et al (Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. Published online 3 April 2019. doi.org/10.1016/j.bpsc.2019.03.010)
3. Inflammation and its role in age-related macular degeneration. Ana Kauppinen, et al (Cell Mol Life Sci. 2016; 73: 1765–1786. Published online 6 Feb 2016. doi: 10.1007/s00018-016-2147-8)