Purpose: The aim of the study was to describe the incidence and progression of retinal drusen, retinal pigmentary abnormalities, and signs of late age-related maculopathy.
Population: A population of 3583 adults (range, 43-86 years of age at baseline) living in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, was studied during a 5-year period.
Methods: 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: There was a statistically significant increased incidence of age-related maculopathy lesions with age (P < 0.05). Individuals 75 years of age or older had a significantly (P < 0.01) higher 5-year incidence of the following characteristics than people 43 to 54 years of age: larger sized drusen (125-249 microm, 17.6% vs. 2.1%; > or = 250 microm, 6.5% vs. 0.2%), soft indistinct drusen (16.3% vs. 1.8%), retinal pigment abnormalities (12.9% vs. 0.9%), exudative macular degeneration (1.8% vs. 0%), and pure geographic atrophy (1.7% vs. 0%). After adjusting for age, the incidence of early age-related maculopathy was 2.2 times (95% confidence interval 1.6, 3.2) as likely in women 75 years of age or older compared with men this age. At follow-up, late age-related macular degeneration was more likely to develop in eyes with soft indistinct drusen (6.5% vs. 0.1%) or retinal pigmentary abnormalities (7.1% vs. 0.1%) at baseline than in eyes without these lesions.
Conclusions: These population-based estimates document the high incidence of signs of age-related maculopathy in people 75 years of age or older, and in women compared with men that age. The findings demonstrate that the presence of soft drusen and pigmentary abnormalities significantly increases the risk for the development of geographic atrophy and exudative macular degeneration.