Inflammation linked to vision loss
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. This condition causes vision loss in the macula, the part of the eye that controls central vision. Now a study from the Harvard School of Public Health, published online Feb. 7, 2013, in JAMA Ophthalmology, has shown that inflammation may predict if you'll one day develop AMD. After analyzing the data from five large prospective studies, researchers found that people with high blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) had a 50% increased risk of developing AMD later in life. CRP is produced by the liver and released into the bloodstream, and the levels rise when there is inflammation throughout the body. High levels in the blood can also indicate the presence of other inflammation-related conditions, such as coronary artery disease or inflammatory bowel disease. "You can lower elevated levels of CRP and other markers of inflammation with weight loss and exercise," says Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a professor at Harvard Medical School. "Even if this isn't their main mechanism of benefit," he says, "it is generally speaking still good advice." The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that people age 65 and older have comprehensive eye exams at least every other year. People with existing eye conditions may need to be monitored for AMD more frequently.