Purpose: To determine whether blood pressure and subclinical atherosclerosis are associated with incident age-related maculopathy (ARM).
Methods: The study was performed within the Rotterdam Study, a population-based, prospective cohort study in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. A total of 4822 subjects who at baseline were aged 55 years more, were free of ARM, and participated in at least one of two follow-up examinations after a mean of 2 and 6.5 years, were included in the study. At baseline, blood pressure and the presence of atherosclerosis were determined. ARM was assessed according to the International Classification and Grading System and defined as large, soft drusen with pigmentary changes; indistinct drusen; or atrophic or neovascular age-related macular degeneration.
Results: After a mean follow-up of 5.2 years, incident ARM was diagnosed in 417 subjects. Increased systolic blood pressure or pulse pressure was associated with a higher risk of ARM. Adjusted for age, gender, smoking, total and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, body mass index, and diabetes mellitus, odds ratios (OR) per 10-mm Hg increase were 1.08 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.03-1.14) and 1.11 (95% CI: 1.04-1.18), respectively. Moreover, different measures of atherosclerosis were associated with the risk of ARM. An increase in carotid wall thickness (OR per 1 SD, 1.15; 95% CI: 1.03-1.28) increased the risk of ARM. The lowest compared with the highest tertile of ankle-arm index had an OR of 1.32 (95% CI: 1.00-1.75). A weak association was found between aortic calcifications and the risk of ARM.
Conclusions: Elevated systolic blood or pulse pressure or the presence of atherosclerosis may increase the risk of development of ARM.