The exact causes of early (or dry) and wet (or late stage) age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are not completely understood. However, scientists have made great progress in this area in recent years. The good news is that there are things you can do to reduce your chances of developing AMD and to slow the progression of the disease once it has developed.
Research has demonstrated that there are a number of risk factors that increase a person’s chances of developing AMD.
Research has demonstrated that AMD is two to three times as frequent among tobacco smokers, and the risk is dose dependent. In other words, the more you smoke, the greater the risk and the faster the progression of the disease. Saving your sight is another good reason to quit smoking.
A high-fat, high-cholesterol diet can lead to fatty plaque deposits in the macular vessels, which can hamper blood flow and increase the risk of AMD. A diet low in fat promotes good eye health
Several research studies have also suggested that certain vitamins and nutrients may actually reduce vision loss. Diets rich in antioxidant vitamins C and E; the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene; and the mineral zinc may help prevent or delay AMD progression. People who should consider taking the combination of antioxidants plus zinc include those who are at high risk for developing advanced AMD. These people are defined as having either:
Either of these forms of advanced AMD can cause vision loss. Ask you doctor if taking this special formulation is right for you and where you can obtain the specific formula in your country.
"I used to smoke up to 60 cigarettes a day. Now I have wet AMD, am partially sighted in one eye and am likely to lose my sight. When you smoke you cannot imagine what it is like to have lung cancer, and especially when you are young the risk of dying earlier doesn’t come into it. I am a nurse. I saw people die from smoking related diseases and that did not make me kick the habit. But if I had been told that I could lose my sight because of smoking, I am sure I would have given up earlier. I stopped the day I found out."
Paul M Edwards, Uk, aged 50 years.
Research suggests a link between obesity and the development of AMD. Studies also show that obesity increases the progression of early and intermediate stage AMD to advanced AMD. Vigorous exercise has shown to decrease risk.
Patients with dry AMD on anti-hypertensive drug therapy coupled with high serum cholesterol levels and low serum carotenoid are at a greater risk for developing wet AMD.
Excessive exposure of your eyes to sunlight, particularly ultraviolet (UV) light, is considered to be a risk factor for AMD. Sunglasses and hats should be worn as protection.
Those with immediate family members who have AMD are at a higher risk of developing the disease. The genetic complexity of AMD is becoming increasing clear. Researchers are finding that although there is a high frequency of known AMD-causing gene variants in the population, many people with these variants do not develop AMD. In other words, we now know that having a certain gene in your DNA makes you more likely to develop AMD than somebody who does not have the gene, but we don’t know exactly what triggers the gene and causes development of AMD.
The incidence of AMD increases with age. The U.S. National Eye Institute (NEI) estimates that while in their 50s, people have a 2% chance of getting AMD. This risk increases to nearly 30% in those over age 75.
AMD occurs more frequently in Caucasians than other races. AMD is also more prevalent with blue-eyed people.
While many people become farsighted as they age, severe farsightedness is uncommon and related to an extreme distortion of the shape of the eye possibly affecting the retina.
Because many factors cannot be controlled, regular eye examinations are essential for early detection to ensure the best success for treatment and rehabilitation.
Now that you’ve learned more about risk factors, it’s important that you look at some of the preventative actions you can take to decrease your risk. An overall focus on a healthy lifestyle is most important. We recommend some basic strategies, and cover these in more detail here.
AMD Alliance International is not a medical organisation, therefore we can only provide general information that is not intended to be a substitute for a proper medical assessment. Please read our eye health information disclaimer.