April 6, 2013

How Many People are Legally Blind from Wet AMD?

Posted in: Eye Conditions, Research and Developments

by Dan Roberts
April 2013

The latest report I have seen that provides anything close to an accurate estimate of legal blindness among people with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is Wilmer Eye Institute’s “Causes and prevalence of visual impairment among adults in the United States” by Congdon N, et al (Arch Ophthalmol. 2004 Apr;122(4):477-85). It is based upon estimates from the 2002 Major Eye Disease Prevalence Study sponsored by the National Institute of Health’s National Eye Institute.

The abstract states that an estimated 937,000 Americans older than 40 years were legally blind, and that the leading cause of legal blindness among that age group was age-related macular degeneration (54.4% of the cases). Doing the math, I derive from this that an estimated 509,728 AMD people were legally blind in 2004.

This number, however, has probably changed significantly as a result of the anti-VEGF treatments available since 2006. It is now rare for a newly-diagnosed person to reach legal blindness as a result of wet AMD. But, since wet AMD affects only 10-15% of the AMD population, one might reach a more accurate number by subtracting 10% from the 2004 estimate. I pick the lower percentage, because a good number of those people (maybe 5%?) are still living who were not able to take advantage of the new treatment. This would bring the total of legally blind Americans with legal blindness from AMD down to 458,755, based upon the 2000 census.

That is my best educated guess derived from reliable figures, and I have not seen anything more current. If newer or more accurate information is available, please send it to me for publication.

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