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Macular Degeneration Causes and Risk Factors | What You Need To Know About AMD

March 03, 2017 3 min read

Macular degeneration is a disease of the eye that can lead to blindness by affecting the center of vision, causing blind spots. The part of the human eye affected is the retina. It is estimated that macular degeneration currently affects more than 13 million Americans. Although advancing age is the primary cause, with a third of people over age 75 affected, there are some other risk factors for this debilitating eye disorder.

What Causes Macular Degeneration (AMD)

The exact cause of macular degeneration is unknown, but inflammation seems to play a pivotal role.  Eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in leafy green vegetables as well as taking supplements filled with antioxidants, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, have been proven to help prevent the progression of macular degeneration. 

Below are risk factors that tend to increase your risk for macular degeneration.


Smokers are two to five times more likely to develop macular degeneration than non-smokers. This is due to the fact that smoking reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to the retina. This lack of proper oxygen most likely contributes to both the development and progression of the disease.

Smoking as a risk factor for AMD Macular Degeneration

Genetics or Your Family history

Someone is more likely to develop macular degeneration if someone in their immediate family has or had it as well. Closer relationships, like a sister or mother with the disease, mean greater risk. 


Women are more likely to develop macular degeneration than men, most likely because their life expectancy is longer.


Caucasians are far more likely to develop macular degeneration than other ethnicities, which may have something to do with genetic background as well as with lower pigmentation found in the retina.

Family history and Risk Factors for ASM Macular Degeneration

Prolonged Sun Exposure

Evidence is not yet conclusive, but some studies show an association between macular degeneration and eye damage from ultraviolet(UV) light. Wear those sunglasses!


People who consume diets high in fat, cholesterol, and/or high glycemic index foods (simple sugars), and/or have a low level of consumption of the antioxidants founds in green leafy vegetables may be more likely to develop macular degeneration.

macular degeneration diet


People with a BMI (body mass index) higher than 30 are 2.5 times more likely to develop the disease than those with a lower BMI.

High blood pressure

Like smoking, high blood pressure leads to the narrowing of the tiny blood vessels of the retina, restricting oxygen.

Eye color

Individuals with light-colored eyes (think blue and light gray) are more likely to develop macular degeneration due to lack of pigmentation protecting them from UV light.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Exercise improves health and might prevent macular degeneration by ensuring proper oxygen flow to the retina.

Macular degeneration in one eye

If someone develops macular degeneration in a single eye, unfortunately that person is far more likely to develop the disease in the other eye.

How to Prevent Macular Degeneration

These suggestions may help protect vision and improve your overall health, and some may lower the risk of developing macular degeneration.

  • Eat a healthy diet packed with green leafy vegetables, yellow and orange fruit, fish, and whole grains
  • Take a supplement with Lutein and Zeaxanthin
  • Quit smoking...NOW
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Control elevated blood pressure through diet, exercise, or medication
  • Exercise regularly
  • Wear UV protected sunglasses when outside, even on cloudy days
  • Get routine eye exams and report any changes in vision immediately

Like most potential health issues, many things can be done to prevent or reduce damage. Studies about Macular Degeneration are giving people the knowledge to minimize the impact this disorder may have on their lives as they age.

Do you currently have Macular Degeneration or know someone who does? How has it affected your life? We want to hear about it!

One Love,

 Dr. Jenna Zigler

Dr. Jenna Zigler

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