Purpose: To determine whether there is rod system dysfunction in the central retina of patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Methods: Dark-adapted sensitivity (500-nm stimulus) and light-adapted sensitivity (600 nm) were measured psychophysically at 52 loci in the central 38 degrees (diameter) of retina in 80 patients with AMD, and results were compared with those from older adult normal controls. All dark-adapted data were corrected for preretinal absorption.
Results: Mean field dark-adapted sensitivity was significantly lower in AMD patients as a group than in normal subjects. Within the AMD group were subsets of patients with normal mean dark- and light-adapted sensitivities; reduced dark-adapted sensitivities without detectable light-adapted losses; both types of losses; and, least commonly, only light-adapted losses. Regional retinal analyses of the dark-adapted deficit indicated the greatest severity was 2 degrees to 4 degrees or approximately 1 mm from the fovea, and the deficit decreased with increasing eccentricity.
Conclusions: These psychophysical results are consistent with histopathologic findings of a selective vulnerability for parafoveal rod photoreceptors in AMD. The different patterns of rod and cone system losses among patients at similar clinical stages reinforces the notion that AMD is a group of disorders with underlying heterogeneity of mechanism of visual loss. Dark-adapted macula-wide testing may be a useful complement to the more traditional outcome measures of fundus pathology and foveal cone-based psychophysics in future AMD trials.