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Catching macular degeneration early

12:49pm, October 8, 2002

From Washington, D.C., at a seminar on Research to Prevent Blindness

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness among the elderly in the United States. By gauging the eye's capacity to adapt to darkness, neuroscientist Gregory R. Jackson and his colleagues at the University of Alabama in Birmingham may have discovered a way to spot the earliest stages of the disease. Physicians might one day use the technique to predict whose vision is likely to become impaired.

Darkness adaptation occurs, for example, when a person walks into a dim movie theater from a bright street. In an earlier study, Jackson and his colleagues compared 20 people with early-stage AMD and 16 without the disease. In a laboratory test, the AMD patients took significantly longer to adjust to darkness than the others did.

In a new study, the researchers randomly selected examination data collected 4 years earlier from 20 elderly people who had had normal visio

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