Aims: To investigate the functional implications of macular soft drusen regression in AMD eyes.
Methods: Patients were selected from a large ongoing collection of clinical data at Moorfields Eye Hospital. Phenotyping based on standard colour fundus images was performed according to the system defined by the International Classification for ARM, by certified graders masked to the main aim of the study. Fundus Autofluorescence (FA) was recorded using a Heidelberg Retina Angiograph 2. Where drusen regression was confirmed by independent grading, the patient was invited for photopic and scotopic Fine Matrix Mapping (FMM). Phenotype and functional data were analyzed for correlations between fundus appearance, autofluorescence and retinal sensitivity.
Results: Fundus and FA images of 960 patients were screened, soft drusen regression was detected in 34 cases, 14 patients agreed to participate in the study, ranging in age from 52 to 84 years (median 72). The mean follow-up period was 5.9 years (range 2.8-14.4 years). FMM showed generalised threshold elevation relative to normal controls both under photopic and scotopic conditions. Scotopic sensitivity loss exceeded photopic loss in all cases. Sensitivity loss over areas with drusen or regressed drusen did not differ significantly from that over non-drusen areas.
Conclusion: Macular soft drusen may fade or disappear without detectable ophthalmoscopic, FA or psychophysical signs of local dysfunction. This phenomenon is a potential source of misclassification. The prognosis for cases with true regression of drusen compared with those without needs to be considered in future studies on AMD.