The predominant causes of age-related visual impairment and blindness vary between the developed and developing countries, and even within various demographic and ethnic groups within single countries (Thylefors et al., 1995). There are many causes of visual loss in elderly patients, including diabetic retinopathy, stroke, and retinal vascular occlusive disease, along with other age-related visual diseases including pterygia and presbyopia. However, in most populations the greatest causes of blindness and vision loss in the elderly include cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration (Congdon, Friedman, and Lietman, 2003; Buch et al., 2004).
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness across the world, blinding 17 million persons worldwide. Cataracts are usually correctable by surgery in developed countries, with about 5% of the American population over 40 years old having undergone cataract surgery. However, they remain a significant cause of visual disability even in developed countries, being the leading cause of low vision in the United States (Congdon, Friedman, and Lietman, 2003). Glaucoma is an optic neuropathy, often related to elevated intraocular pressure, which is responsible for blindness in 6.7 million people across the world. Glaucoma is more common in
Handbook of Models for Human Aging
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African-derived populations, and increases with age. Finally, the greatest age-related cause of blindness in European-derived populations of developed countries is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This degenerative disease progresses from fatty retinal deposits called drusen to neovascularization and retinal hemorrhage, resulting in irreversible loss of central vision.
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