Age-related macular degeneration risk factors
Age-related macular degeneration is caused by genetic and environmental factors. Major risk factors include age, family history and smoking.
Age is a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration
Age is the strongest risk factor for age-related macular degeneration. So that means the older you get, the more likely you are to develop AMD.
One in seven people over the age of 50 have some evidence of AMD. That’s about 1.5 million people. This will rise to an estimated 1.7 million people by 2030 in the absence of adequate treatment and prevention methods.
Almost 15 per cent of Australians aged over 80 have vision loss or blindness from AMD.
Family history is a risk factor for AMD
Genetic factors play a role in up to 70 per cent of cases of age-related macular degeneration.
If you have a parent or sibling with AMD, you have a 50 per cent risk of getting it, too.
This greater risk means it is very important to get your eyes checked regularly if you have a family history of AMD.
It also means that if you have AMD yourself, you should tell your siblings and children about the hereditary risk. Encourage them to visit an optometrist to have their eyes examined, including a check of the macula.
Smoking is a risk factor for AMD
Smoking is the largest modifiable risk factor for age-related macular degeneration.
According to the studies, if you smoke, you are three to four times more likely to develop AMD.
Smokers may also develop the disease five to 10 years earlier than non-smokers.
Smoking can also increase the risk of disease progression. If you have wet (neovascular) AMD and continue to smoke, you may not respond as well to treatment.
It’s hard to stop, but with help and support, you can quit smoking.
While you can’t do much about your age or family history, there are things you can do to help protect your vision.
Have regular eye exams, including a check of the macula. If you don’t have a regular optometrist, you can use our online tool to find an optometrist in your local area.
You should also maintain a healthy lifestyle, control weight and exercise regularly.