Background: The Age-related Macular Degeneration Alliance International commissioned a review of the literature on quality of life (QoL) in macular degeneration (MD) with a view to increasing awareness of MD, reducing its impact and improving services for people with MD worldwide.
Method: A systematic review was conducted using electronic databases, conference proceedings and key journal hand search checks. The resulting 'White Paper' was posted on the AMD Alliance website and is reproduced here.
Review: MD is a chronic, largely untreatable eye condition which leads to loss of central vision needed for tasks such as reading, watching TV, driving, recognising faces. It is the most common cause of blindness in the Western world. Shock of diagnosis, coupled with lack of information and support are a common experience. Incidence of depression is twice that found in the community-dwelling elderly, fuelled by functional decline and loss of leisure activities. Some people feel suicidal. MD threatens independence, especially when comorbidity exacerbates functional limitations. Rehabilitation, including low vision aid (LVA) provision and training, peer support and education, can improve functional and psychological outcomes but many people do not receive services likely to benefit them. Medical treatments, suitable for only a small minority of people with MD, can improve vision but most limit progress of MD, at least for a time, rather than cure. The White Paper considers difficulties associated with inappropriate use of health status measures and misinterpretation of utility values as QoL measures: evidence suggests they have poor validity in MD.
Conclusion: There is considerable evidence for the major damage done to QoL by MD which is underestimated by health status and utility measures. Medical treatments are limited to a small proportion of people. However, much can be done to improve QoL by early diagnosis of MD with good communication of prognosis and continuing support. Support could include provision of LVAs, peer support, education and effective help in adjusting to MD. It is vital that appropriate measures of visual function and QoL be used in building a sound evidence base for the effectiveness of rehabilitation and treatment.