The leading cause of irreversible blindness and severely impaired eyesight – age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – is expected to affect 77 million Europeans by 2050.
Researchers, funded by the European Society of Retina Specialists, have warned this increase in cases of age-related macular degeneration will require a considerable amount of extra healthcare resources and careful planning for decades to come, particularly as most cases will be in people aged 70 and above.
Age-related macular degeneration occurs when the small central portion of the retina, the light-sensing tissue at the back of the eye deteriorates with age. When advanced, it can be treated, but not cured.
The calculations have been published online in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
Calculating the cost of AMD
To accurately estimate the likely demands placed on healthcare services by age-related macular degeneration, the researchers calculated the numbers of existing and new cases across member states of the European Union up to the year 2050.
To do this, they pooled data from 22 existing disease studies involving 55,323 people, aged, on average, between 60 and 81, and from four incidence (new cases) studies from across Europe – showing that the number of existing cases is projected to rise by 15%, while the number of new cases is projected to rise by 75% up to 2050.
The estimated projections show that by 2050 one in four older adults in the EU will have AMD, ranging from just under one in 10 of those younger than 65 to just under 27% of those over the age of 75.
To calculate the figures for new cases of advanced AMD, the researchers pooled the data for 7223 study participants from the four incidence studies – calculating an annual rate of 1.4 new cases of advanced AMD per 1000 people aged 50+, with comparable figures of 0.5/1000 for the under 70s, rising to 6.7/1000 for the over 70s.
Based on these figures, they estimate that 77 million people in the EU will have AMD by 2050, compared with 67 million as of 2015, and with the proportion of those with advanced AMD expected to rise by 20%, from 10 to 12 million up to 2050.
The researchers warned that: “This will require considerable additional healthcare service and resource allocation, which should be considered already today in all European healthcare systems.”