Fundus autofluorescence and age-related macular degeneration

Ophthalmology. 2003 Feb;110(2):392-9. doi: 10.1016/S0161-6420(02)01756-6.


Purpose: To evaluate the autofluorescence images of patients with nonexudative and the fellow eyes with exudative age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Design: Observational case series.

Participants: Fifty-four patients seen in the author's practice.

Methods: A fundus camera-based system for autofluorescence photographs was used, and the wavelengths for the excitation (580 nm) and barrier (695 nm) filters were based on known transmission and autofluorescent characteristics of the ocular media. Patients were also photographed with red-free and infrared monochromatic imaging. The mean levels of autofluorescence were compared between patients without (group 1) and those with exudative AMD. Comparisons were made among patients with exudative AMD, examining the autofluorescence pattern in those without retinal vascular contribution to the exudative process (group 2) to those with retinal vascular contribution (group 3).

Main outcome measures: Mean amounts and patterns of autofluorescence.

Results: A total of 54 patients was evaluated; 18 were in each group. The mean age was 75.4 years, and there was no difference in the mean ages among the groups (P = 0.16). There was no correlation of the autofluorescence measurements and the degree of nuclear sclerosis (P = 0.14). Patients with exudative AMD had more autofluorescence in the fellow eye than did eyes of patients without exudative AMD (P = 0.002). Patients in group 3 were more likely to have focal hyperpigmentation, particularly as imaged by infrared light (P = 0.015), and focal areas of intense autofluorescence (P = 0.001) than were patients in group 2.

Conclusions: By use of this method of autofluorescence imaging, it was determined that the fellow eyes of patients with exudative AMD had larger amounts of autofluorescence than did the eyes of patients without a history of exudative AMD. Patients with retinal vascular anastomosis to the vascular proliferation of exudative AMD were much more likely to have focal areas of intense autofluorescence in their fellow eye that corresponded, for the most part, with focal areas of hyperpigmentation best seen by infrared monochromatic fundus photography. Because the amount of fluorescence is directly related to the amount of lipofuscin, which in turn is related to the cumulative amount of oxidative damage, these findings suggest possible explanations for certain patterns of vessel growth seen in exudative AMD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Coloring Agents
  • Exudates and Transudates
  • Fluorescein Angiography
  • Fluorescence
  • Fundus Oculi
  • Humans
  • Indocyanine Green
  • Lipofuscin / metabolism
  • Macular Degeneration / diagnosis*
  • Macular Degeneration / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Photography
  • Retinal Vessels / metabolism
  • Retinal Vessels / pathology*


  • Coloring Agents
  • Lipofuscin
  • Indocyanine Green