Doctors may be missing earliest signs of macular degeneration

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WPVI) -- Doctors may be failing to catch the earliest signs of a major cause of blindness.

The issue is - if it's caught very early, age-related macular degeneration can be treated, and vision preserved.

If not, it's much harder to slow down.

And a new study suggests many doctors may be missing the early signs.

A team at the University of Alabama-Birmingham used advanced digital photography to look at the eyes of 13-hundred older people who had normal vision on a standard exam.

They found that 1 in 4 of those people actually had degeneration in their retinas.

In many cases, it was early enough that the problem could be reversed by diet, nutritional supplements, and lifestyle.

Just why initial exams didn't always pick up the condition remains "unclear," says the UAB team.

The doctors also found older white men were more likely to be UNdiagnosed than women, or other racial groups.

Experts believe about 14 million Americans have AMD.

Research is underway on treatments for the earliest stages of AMD, making the need for early detection even more urgent.

The findings were published online April 27 in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.
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