People with Allergies Have Reduced Risk for Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Hollander, Anneke den (2)

A research team from the Department of Ophthalmology of the Radboudumc and from the University Hospital of Cologne found that people who reported having allergies had a significantly reduced risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of vision loss in the elderly. Results of the study, which involved 3,585 Caucasian individuals, were reported in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

After adjusting for other risk factors - age, gender, smoking and corticosteroid use - overall AMD risk for people with allergies was reduced by 25 percent. Late AMD risk for those allergic was reduced by 51 percent.

The protective effect of allergies appeared to be independent of the type of allergen; people with allergies to pollen, drugs, food, dust mites and other provoking agents all had reduced AMD risk.

Over the last decade, the retinal research community has known that increased activation of the complement system - the body's immune response to infection - is linked to the development of AMD. However, the study did not find that allergies affected the level of complement activity. The scientists suspect that other allergy-related, immune-system factors may be linked to reduced AMD risk, but acknowledge that more research is needed to establish the association.

Photo: Anneke den Hollander, Dept of Ophthalmology



Fundus Photograph of an individual with age-related macular degeneration, characterized by loss of retinal photoreceptors in the central retina (the macula) and choroidal neovascularization.

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