Environmental Factors and genes contributed to Macular Degeneration

Environmental Factors and genes contributed to Macular Degeneration

Posted on Nov.03, 2012, under Educational

Wouldn’t it be great to know what environmental factors or what genes contributed to the development of age related macular degeneration (AMD)? My husband and I are helping to find the answers to these questions by being participants in the Genetics of Age-Related Maculopathy (GARM II) study at Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The purpose of the study is “to determine how the combination of genetic, dietary, health and exposure factors such as light, diet, and smoking contributes to one’s risk of developing this condition.”

The study does not provide any treatment nor does it require us to eat a certain way or to take any eye supplements. The study aims to get insight into what recommendations can be made to those who are at a higher than normal risk for developing AMD.

There are three parts to the study, but none of them require us to travel to Los Angeles. They are:

1. Web Based Questionnaires
Questions regarding family history, diet, smoking, one’s medical history, and vision symptoms are accessed via a secure, HIPPA-compliant, and confidential website. Every couple of months, we receive an email asking us to complete a new set of questions.

2. Saliva Testing
For genetic analyses, a saliva kit is mailed to the participant. Saliva is then collected in special containers and mailed back to the study center at no expense to the participants. This is done by simply spitting into a small plastic tube, sealing it and dropping the pre-addressed and stamped envelope off at a Fed Ex Drop Box. We have been asked for saliva samples at three different times so far.

3. Retinal Imaging
The study coordinator made all the arrangements for a retinal exam with a nearby eye center. They then informed us as to which eye center near us could perform the retinal fundus exams. It was less than a mile from our home. The eye doctor took a set of retinal fundus photos and sent them to UCLA. The retinal exams are done three times. Once at the start of the study, again at two years, and at four years.

There are three different groups of people that the GARM II study is still recruiting as of October 2012. Find out if you, a family member or friend may be eligible to contribute to our knowledge and understanding of what causes macular degeneration and more importantly what can be done to prevent it:


Better Health for Better Vision

Leslie Degner, RN, BSN