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Is Macular Degeneration Genetic?

You’ve heard of macular degeneration, commonly called AMD, an abbreviation for age-related macular degeneration. AMD is an eye disease that causes loss of central vision, meaning you can’t see things directly in front of you. It can affect one or both eyes with different levels of vision loss. 

AMD typically affects people over the age of 50. You know it’s something you don’t want to get. However, the incidence of macular degeneration is rising worldwide, mainly because people are living longer. 

The best way to know you don’t have macular degeneration, or AMD, is by making and keeping appointments for eye exams. Our board-certified ophthalmologists with Wolchok Eye Associates, PA, perform comprehensive eye exams, providing reassurance that your eyes are healthy. If we do find a problem, we can address it right away. 

If your family had eye problems, you may wonder if macular degeneration is genetic. We still do not fully understand the roots of macular degeneration. The following are risk factors for this eye disease. 

While genes contribute to AMD, environmental and lifestyle habits also play a role. With that in mind, you can be in the driver’s seat in helping to minimize environmental factors. 


Research shows that your genes contribute to AMD, possibly in up to 75% of cases. Although up to 30 genes may get involved to some degree, researchers have targeted two genes with variants in the majority of AMD cases. 

The bottom line: If close family relatives have had AMD, you’re more at risk for it than individuals in families that don’t have a history of the disease. Experts say genetic testing won’t help now because no gene therapy is available yet that treats AMD. 

However, even if your family does have a history of AMD, it doesn’t mean that you’ll get it. Experts say AMD develops from several determinants, including environmental factors and gene mutations or variations. If environmental factors lead to gene mutations, you can see how your habits and lifestyle are critical to examine. 


Smoking is a factor that contributes to many diseases, and AMD is one of them. When you smoke, you lower your body’s level of protective antioxidants. Researchers have found that individuals with low levels of the antioxidant lutein in the macula of the eye are likely more at risk for AMD. Smoking also diminishes oxygen and nutrient levels in the blood vessels that connect to your retina, depriving your macula of nourishing blood supplies. 

Your food choices 

In recent years, nutrition experts have warned the public to minimize the amount of saturated fat and trans fats in foods you consume. Although some foods have banned trans fats, they still appear in others. 

If you’re a bacon, sausage, or salami lover and a red meat aficionado, consider cutting back on these sources of unhealthy fats and processed meats. Scientists have found that these foods increase the risk of AMD moving to an advanced stage, with impacts on your sight. 

Consider the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in leafy greens, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, with much less consumption of red meat. This type of diet not only helps protect against AMD; it’s also heart-healthy. 


If you’re obese, you’re at heightened risk of AMD progressing to an advanced stage. You may not have realized that the extra fat places stress on your body. Stress can change the makeup of your immune system cells and lead to excess cell inflammation. Several diseases link to excess inflammation in your body. Inflammation in your body’s cells can travel to your eyes and lead to AMD. 

Heart disease/high blood pressure/high cholesterol 

If you have cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, or if you’ve already been diagnosed with heart disease, you’re at elevated risk of a type of AMD. Heart and vascular disease hinders blood circulation around your eyes, which brings them nutrients. It can lead to deposits of fatty lipids that prevent oxygen and nutrients from getting to your eyes. 

While there’s no cure for AMD, we can treat it and help stop its progression. We have a variety of effective treatments, including medication, injections, laser surgery, and photodynamic therapy. 

Call Wolchok Eye Associates, PA, or book an appointment online today for a thorough eye exam. We’re your partner in your eye health.

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