Around one in four Europeans will suffer sight loss condition by 2050
By Jane Kirby
The leading cause of sight loss could affect 77 million Europeans by 2050, researchers say.
A new study published online in the British Journal of Ophthalmology predicts that current figures for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) will increase by at least 15% over the next 30 years.
At present, around 67 million people in the EU are currently affected by any form of AMD, though it is far more prevalent in older people.
By 2050, researchers predict that around one in four older adults in the EU will have AMD, ranging from just under one in 10 of those under 65 to just under 27% of those over 75.
AMD causes changes to the macula, which leads to problems with central vision.
Over time, sight can become distorted or blurry and a blank patch may appear.
More women suffer from AMD than men, and things known to heighten the risk include high blood pressure, a lack of exercise and smoking.
Researchers behind the new calculations, from the University of Bonn in Germany, looked at 26 studies, including from the UK, involving 55,323 people, aged on average between 60 and 81.
Helen Lee, eye health policy and campaigns manager at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), said: "NHS eye care services are already at breaking point.
"While thousands of people receive excellent NHS eye care services, too many are facing delays to treatment which is resulting in irreversible sight loss. This is completely unacceptable.
"This study into age-related macular degeneration shows the situation will only get worse.
"However, there are solutions. The Government needs to demonstrate leadership, make better use of the eye care workforce, train more specialist eye care doctors and improve the planning of eye care services.
"This needs to be done urgently to prepare for the massive increase in demand which the study highlights is on the horizon."