Who is at Risk for Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
The greatest risk factor is age. Although age-related macular degeneration may occur during middle age, studies show that people over age 60 are clearly at greater risk than other age groups. 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.
Screening for AMD
To detect AMD before symptoms appear, you should be screened if you meet any of the following criteria.
- Over 60 years of age
- Have hypertension or cardiovascular disease
- Smoke cigarettes or other tobacco products
- Have a close family history (brother/sister/mother) of vision loss from AMD
- Have aphakia or pre-1984 pseudophakia
- Had cataract surgery(replacement of the crystalline lens of the eye with an artificial lens)
- Had significant cumulative light exposure (e.g., airline pilots, boaters, farmers)
Risk Factors for AMD Include:
Smoking may increase the risk of AMD. Smoking has a deleterious effect on virtually every body system and your vision is no exception. The chemicals in tobacco are believed to keep your body from properly absorbing lutein, an antioxidant that helps shield the retina from age-related deterioration. In fact, smoking is the most important preventable risk factor for AMD, increasing the risk to two to three times that of a person who has never smoked. Evidence shows that quitting reduces your risk of developing AMD, a benefit that continues to build each year that you do not smoke, especially in the first several years after quitting.
Research studies suggest a link between obesity and the progression of early and intermediate stage AMD to advanced AMD. A body mass index of 30 or greater increases the likelihood that early or intermediate dry AMD will progress to advanced dry or wet AMD. Body mass index is a measure of body weight adjusted for height.
Caucasians, especially those over 75-years-old, are much more likely to lose vision from AMD than African Americans. Read more about the racial and ethnic differences in vision loss.
- Family History
Those with immediate family members who have age-related macular degeneration are at a higher risk of developing the disease. Ten to twenty percent of people with AMD have one or more immediate family members (siblings, parents, or children) with AMD. Scientists have identified some of the specific genes believed to be responsible for causing macular degeneration. Researchers are working to develop genetic testing that might allow people to find out whether they are at high risk and should be closely monitored.
Women appear to be at greater risk than men.
- Eye Color
People with light-colored eyes tend to have a higher risk of AMD than those with darker eyes.
- Severe Hyperopia (Farsightedness)
People who are extremely hyperopic (farsighted) have up to two and a half times the risk of developing AMD.
Low antioxidant levels may increase the risk of age-related conditions, including macular degeneration. One study conducted over a five-year interval showed that people with early or intermediate AMD who took a nutritional supplement of antioxidant vitamins and zinc had a 25 percent reduced risk that the disease would progress to an advanced stage. However, you should consult your primary care provider before taking a vitamin supplement, since high concentrations of zinc, vitamin K, and other vitamins and minerals can be harmful for some patients or can cause medication interactions.
It is also helpful, of course, to eat a diet high in antioxidants such as fish and green leafy vegetables. People who eat five or more servings per week of dark, leafy green vegetables, such as kale and spinach, have a reduced risk of developing AMD. In addition, researchers are investigating a possible link between AMD and diets high in saturated fats.
- Don't Smoke
- Maintain Normal Blood Pressure
Control high blood pressure in order to reduce your blood cholesterol.
Get moving! Aerobic physical activity doesn't have to involve leg warmers and Spandex. It just means you need to get your heart rate up to your target range at least three times a week. You can do this with brisk walking, swimming, bicycling or any other activity that's powered by you.
- Watch Your Weight
- Stay Out of the Sun
You already knew that getting a tan causes wrinkles and age spots, not to mention skin cancer. But sunlight can also contribute to the development of cataracts, AMD, and other eye diseases. If you can't avoid the sun, use a high-SPF sunscreen, wear a wide-brimmed hat and UV-filtering sunglasses.