Causes of Macular Degeneration

Causes of Macular Degeneration

Posted under Eye Conditions

Macular Degeneration Causes

Once someone has been diagnosed with age related macular degeneration (AMD) or any disease for that matter, the mind starts asking questions like, how did I get this condition, what caused it or perhaps, could I have done something to prevent it?

There are many different factors that contribute to a person developing macular degeneration – some that can be controlled and some that cannot.

Here are the most common causes and risk factors:

1. Age
Macular degeneration is the number one cause of vision loss in the senior population. The older a person gets, the higher their risk of developing AMD. According to the National Eye Institute, ”a large study found that people in middle-age have about a 2 percent risk of getting AMD, but this risk increased to nearly 30 percent in those over age 75.”

2. Gender
Women are more likely to develop age related macular degeneration than men.

3. Race
It occurs in all races but it is more common in Caucasians.

4. Iris Color
The research shows that there is less pigment in blue eyes, and green eyes for that matter, than there is in brown eyes, so more light is able to penetrate blue eyes. This makes lighter eyes more sensitive to light and is what makes people with blue eyes more likely to have age-related macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is caused when the light sensitive cells in the eyes start to die, which can eventually result in blindness.

5. Heredity
My husband’s father has wet macular degeneration as well as did many of my husband’s aunts and uncles. The lifetime risk of developing late-stage macular degeneration is 50% for people who have a relative with macular degeneration versus 12% for people who’s relatives do not have macular degeneration (4x the risk).

6. Smoking
Smoking is the single most controllable risk factor that contributes to the development of macular degeneration. Every cigarette that is smoked causes damage to one’s vision. Smoking causes vasoconstriction or narrowing of the blood vessels which reduces the blood supply to the eyes. Smoking also creates free radicals which causes cellular damage while decreasing ones levels of antioxidants.

7. Diet Low in Dark Leafy Greens
A Harvard study done by Dr. Johanna Seddon in 1994 concluded that those who ate at least 5 servings of dark leafy greens per week had a 43% lower risk of developing AMD than those who ate small amounts or none at all. These lutein rich greens include kale, collard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, parsley, mustard greens, romaine lettuce and beet greens.

8. Diet Low in Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Thanks again to Dr. Seddon and her researchers at Harvard University, they discovered that people with diets of a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids have less macular degeneration. Almost all of our processed foods and vegetable oils contain omega-6 which means that the average American gets way to much omega-6. Because omega 6 competes with omega 3, if we have too much omega-6 then the omega-3 we do take isn’t utilized properly.

9. High Blood Pressure
Dr. Michael A. Samuel the author of Macular Degeneration: A Complete Guide for Patients and Their Families writes “If you have high blood pressure that is fairly well controlled, you have double the risk of wet AMD compared to someone who does not have hypertension at all. If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure that goes above 160/90 you are three times more likely to develop wet AMD.” (Ophthalmology 2003;110: 636-643).

10. Exercise
Those with an active lifestyle were 70% less likely to develop macular degeneration than those who did little or no exercise according to researchers from the University of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin study that began in 1988, tracked almost 4,000 men and women (between the ages of 43-86) over a 15 year period by conducting regular eye tests and recording levels of exercise.

After accounting for other risk factors such as age, sex, history of arthritis, systolic blood pressure, body mass index, smoking, and education, those with a baseline active lifestyle of walking three times or more a week, were 70% less likely to develop macular degeneration than those who did little exercise.

For more specific tips on what you can do to prevent macular degeneration go to:
Macular Degeneration Prevention