Improving the Age-Related Macular Degeneration Construct: A New Classification System

Previous models of disease in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) were incomplete in that they did not encompass subretinal drusenoid deposits (pseudodrusen), subtypes of neovascularization, and polypoidal choroidal vasculopathy. In addition, Type 3 neovascularization starts in the retina and may not necessarily involve the choroid. As such the term choroidal neovascularization is not appropriate for these eyes. The new aspects in the AMD construct are to include specific lipoprotein extracellular accumulations, namely drusen and subretinal drusenoid deposits, as early AMD. The deposition of specific types of deposit seems to be highly correlated with choroidal thickness and topographical location in the macula. Late AMD includes macular neovascularization or atrophy. The particular type of extracellular deposit is predictive of the future course of the patient. For example, eyes with subretinal drusenoid deposits have a propensity to develop outer retinal atrophy, complete outer retinal and retinal pigment epithelial atrophy, or Type 3 neovascularization as specific forms of late AMD. Given Type 3 neovascularization may never involve the choroid, the term macular neovascularization is suggested for the entire spectrum of neovascular disease in AMD. In contrast to older classification systems, the proposed system encompasses the relevant presentations of disease and more precisely predicts the future course of the patient. In doing so the concept was developed that there may be genetic risk alleles, which are not necessarily the same alleles that influence disease expression.