Macular degeneration is caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Risk factors include age, family history and smoking.
People over the age of 50 are at risk of macular degeneration. In fact, one in seven Australians over 50 - or 1.29 million people - has some evidence of this disease.
People with a direct family history of macular degeneration have a 50% chance of developing the disease. Because at least 70% of cases of macular degeneration have a genetic link, it is critical that people with macular degeneration inform their siblings and children that they have been diagnosed with the disease.
Direct family members should have their eyes tested, their macula checked and follow the diet and lifestyle recommendations of Macular Disease Foundation Australia.
Studies have shown that people who smoke are three to four times more likely to develop macular degeneration. Smokers may also develop the disease five to ten years earlier than non-smokers. People with a specific genetic predisposition who smoke have a significantly increased risk of developing macular degeneration.
It is important for a person who smokes to find a way to quit smoking. To help plan and implement a strategy to quit smoking speak to your GP and/or call the Quitline: 13 7848 or visit Quit Now
for information and support.