Purpose: The relationships of retinal drusen, retinal pigmentary abnormalities, and macular degeneration to age and sex were studied in 4926 people between the ages of 43 and 86 years who participated in the Beaver Dam Eye Study.
Methods: The presence and severity of various characteristics of drusen and other lesions typical of age-related maculopathy were determined by grading stereoscopic color fundus photographs using the Wisconsin Age-Related Maculopathy Grading System.
Results: One or more drusen were present in the macular area of at least 1 eye in 95.5% of the population. People 75 years of age or older had significantly higher frequencies (P less than 0.01) of the following characteristics than people 43 to 54 years of age: larger sized drusen (greater than or equal to 125 microns, 24.0% versus 1.9%), soft indistinct drusen (23.0% versus 2.1%), retinal pigment abnormalities (26.6% versus 7.3%), exudative macular degeneration (5.2% versus 0.1%), and geographic atrophy (2.0% versus 0%).
Conclusion: These data indicate signs of age-related maculopathy are common in people 75 years of age or older and may pose a substantial public health problem.