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Tyler Etheridge, Zhe Liu, Marine Nalbandyan, Spencer Cleland, Barbara A. Blodi, Julie A. Mares, Steven Bailey, Robert Wallace, Karen Gehrs, Lesley F. Tinker, Ronald Gangnon, Amitha Domalpally, for the CAREDS2 Research Study Group; Association of Macular Thickness With Age and Age-Related Macular Degeneration in the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (CAREDS2), An Ancillary Study of the Women's Health Initiative. Trans. Vis. Sci. Tech. 2021;10(2):39. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.10.2.39.
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To evaluate the relationship of retinal layer thickness with age and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2.
Total retinal thickness within the macular area, and individual layer thickness was determined for CAREDS2 participants (n = 906 eyes, 473 women) from the Women's Health Initiative using Heidelberg optical coherence tomography (OCT). Mean measurements within the OCT grid were compared across age tertiles (69–78, 78–83, and 83–101 years) and AMD outcomes.
Mean retinal thickness in the central circle, inner ring, and outer ring were 277 ± 34 µm, 326 ± 20 µm, and 282 ± 15 µm, respectively. Thickness did not vary by age in the central circle, but decreased with age in the inner and outer circles (P ≤ 0.004). Specifically, ganglion cell (GCL), inner plexiform, and outer nuclear (ONL) layer thickness decreased with age (P ≤ 0.003). Age-adjusted retinal thickness in all three circles did not vary by AMD outcomes (486 without AMD and 413 with AMD). However, individual layers showed changes with GCL and photoreceptor thinning and retinal pigment epithelial thicknening in eyes with late AMD. After controlling for age and AMD, higher ONL thickness was associated with better visual acuity.
In this cohort of older women, a decrease in perifoveal thickness was associated with increasing age, particularly in the inner retinal layers. Variabilty in thickness in AMD eyes was primarily due to outer retinal layers. Among all retinal layers, the ONL plays an important role in preserving visual acuity.
The study provides a deeper understanding of age related changes to the retinal layers and their effect on visual loss.
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