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From the Current Issue

New Research:
Too Much Sun May Lead To Macular Degeneration

Extended exposure to strong sunlight may increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to 10-year results from the Beaver Dam Eye Study.

For a decade, researchers followed nearly 2,800 individuals who lived in a small Wisconsin town. All participants responded to questionnaires designed to gauge sunlight exposure and had their eyes examined.

Those exposed to summer sun for more than five hours a day during their teens, in their 30s, and at the time of the study had double the risk of developing early AMD compared with those exposed for fewer than two hours a day during the same periods.

Wearing hats and sunglasses at least half the time was associated with a decreased risk of developing macular abnormalities (soft indistinct drusen and retinal pigment epithelium depigmentation), but only among people reporting the highest levels of exposure to summer sun. Hat and sunglass use had no effect on the risk of AMD.

The study authors hypothesize that AMD risk may be related to visible light, not ultraviolet light, which would help explain the lack of effect from wearing sunglasses. But UV–blocking sunglasses are still recommended as a possible way to reduce the risk of cataracts.

Archives of Ophthalmology
Volume 122, page 750
May 2004


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The vision White Paper from The Johns Hopkins White Papers series is an annual, in-depth report written by Hopkins physicians.



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