Purpose: The present study aimed to estimate prevalence and risk factors associated with age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) in an Italian population and to analyze differences between urban and rural communities.
Methods: We conducted a population-based cross-sectional study among elderly residents in Northeast Italy. Participants were divided into urban and rural groups based on whether they lived in the city of Padova or the villages of Teolo and Torreglia, respectively. Fundus photographs were graded according to the International Classification for Age-related Maculopathy.
Results: A total of 1162 randomly selected subjects aged 61 years or more were invited to participate in the study. We examined 885 subjects, and 845 were eligible for fundus photograph grading. ARMD was estimated to affect 62.7% of the whole population (drusen 63-124 μm = 48.3%; drusen ≥125 μm = 10.4%; advanced ARMD = 4.1%). Age was confirmed as a risk factor for drusen ≥125 μm and advanced ARMD (Odds Ratio [OR] = 1.47, 95% Confidence Interval [CI] 1.28-1.69 and OR = 1.62, 95% CI 1.28-2.05, respectively, for a 5-year increase in age). The rural group appeared to be at a higher risk of developing large drusen compared to the urban sample (OR = 1.61, 95% CI 1.01-2.63) when adjusting for age and gender.
Conclusions: The results confirmed that ARMD affects a high percentage of the elderly population in Italy. This study does not support the hypothesis that living in a rural environment or belonging to a population of the Mediterranean basin may be protective against the intermediate stages of the disease.