COVID-19 Morbidity and Severity in Patients With Age-Related Macular Degeneration: A Korean Nationwide Cohort Study

Am J Ophthalmol. 2022 Jul;239:159-169. doi: 10.1016/j.ajo.2021.05.024. Epub 2021 Jun 6.


Purpose: To determine the potential association between age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a representative chronic age-related degenerative disease of the retina associated with inflammation and aging, and susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection and severe COVID-19 outcomes.

Design: Nationwide cohort study with propensity-score matching.

Methods: A population-based nationwide cohort in Korea was examined. Data were obtained from the Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service of Korea, including all patients aged ≥40 years who underwent SARS-CoV-2 testing in South Korea between January 1, 2020 and May 15, 2020 (excluding self-referral). The primary outcome was SARS-CoV-2 test positivity and the secondary outcome was severe clinical outcome of COVID-19.

Results: The unmatched cohort consisted of 135,435 patients who were tested for SARS-CoV-2: 4531 patients (3.3%) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and 5493 (4.1%) had AMD. After propensity score matching, exudative AMD was associated with an increased likelihood of susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.50; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03-2.25), and a considerably greater risk of severe clinical outcomes of COVID-19 (aOR, 2.26; 95% CI, 1.02-5.26), but not any AMD and non-exudative AMD.

Conclusions: In a Korean nationwide cohort, data suggest that clinicians should be aware of the greater risk of susceptibility to severe clinical outcomes of COVID-19 in patients with exudative AMD. These findings provide an improved understanding of the relationship between the pathogenesis of COVID-19 and chronic neurological disorders.

Keywords: COVID-19; age-related macular degeneration; exudative age-related macular degeneration; severity; susceptibility.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Testing
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Macular Degeneration* / diagnosis
  • Macular Degeneration* / epidemiology
  • Morbidity
  • SARS-CoV-2