Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a vision impairing disease of the central retina characterized by early and late forms in individuals older than 50 years of age. However, there is little knowledge to what extent also younger adults are affected. We have thus set out to estimate the prevalence of early AMD features and late AMD in a general adult population by acquiring color fundus images in 2,840 individuals aged 25 to 74 years of the Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg project (KORA) in South Germany. Among the 2,546 participants with gradable images for each eye, 10.9% (n = 277) had early AMD features (applying the 9-step Age-Related Eye Disease Study Severity Scale), 0.2% (n = 6) had late AMD. Prevalence increased with age, reaching 26.3% for early AMD features and 1.9% for late AMD at the age 70+. However, signs of early AMD were found in subjects as young as 25 years, with the risk for early AMD features increasing linearly by years of age in men, and, less consistent with a linear increase, in women. Risk for early AMD features increased linearly by pack years of smoking in men, not in women, nor was there any association with other lifestyle or metabolic factors. By providing much soughtafter prevalence estimates for AMD from Central Europe, our data underscores a substantial proportion of the adult population with signs of early AMD, including individuals younger than 50 years. This supports the notion that early AMD features in the young might be under-acknowledged.
We thank all study participants for contributing to the KORA study.