HIV Increases Risk of Age-Related Vision Loss

Patients with AIDS face a 4-fold greater risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than their HIV-uninfected counterparts.

Patients with AIDS face a 4-fold greater risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than their HIV-uninfected counterparts.

“With HIV and AIDS patients living longer than ever before, they are at an increased risk of developing several age-related diseases at an earlier age than HIV-uninfected people, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” said Douglas A. Jabs, MD, MBA, professor of ophthalmology and medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and lead author of a recent study published in The American Journal of Ophthalmology. “Their increased risk for age-related diseases in general led us to analyze how these patients are impacted by one of the most common age-related eye diseases: macular degeneration.”

Nearly 10% of the 1825 AIDS patients in the study had intermediate AMD. When compared with an age-matched population of HIV-uninfected participants in a similar study, the AMD risk for those with AIDS grew 4-fold.

Among the infected group, 4% of those aged 30 to 39 years had AMD, while 24.3% of those aged 60 years or older developed it. In addition to the increased risk as patients age, those with HIV who injected drugs or had heterosexual contact faced greater odds of AMD.

The researchers noted immunorestored HIV patients taking antiretroviral treatment have a more vulnerable immune system that may be more in line with uninfected adults aged older than 70 years. These new findings may support the theory that patients with AIDS experience accelerated aging, and they add to the growing body of research on HIV-infected patients experiencing age-related diseases earlier in life.

“Although the underlying mechanism leading to this increase in AMD in persons with AIDS is not yet known, it may relate to the state of chronic immune activation and systemic inflammation seen in these patients,” Dr. Jabs explained in a press release.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1.8 million Americans aged 40 years or older have AMD, and the condition is the leading cause of permanent impairment of close-distance vision among those aged 65 years or older.