Age-related macular degeneration or AMD is an eye condition that results in a slow loss of visual acuity over time. It's the number one cause of vision loss in people over the age of 60. While AMD doesn't typically result in complete visual loss, it does reduce central vision dramatically, which can reduce a person's ability to function normally. AMD is a result of deterioration of the macula, the central portion of the eye's retina, the light-sensing nerve tissue of the eye. There are two forms of AMD: wet and dry. Dry AMD is the most common form and it's a result of yellow protein deposits forming in the macula and a thinning of the macula's light-sensitive cells. Around 80% of AMD sufferers have the dry version. Wet AMD results from abnormal growth of blood vessels underneath the macula. These vessels can leak blood and fluid into the retina and scar it. So, if AMD is such a prevalent disease, you might wonder who is at risk.
The biggest determining factor in who's at risk for age-related macular degeneration is right in the name of the disease: age. People over the age of 60 or 70 are the biggest risk group for AMD. The risk of getting the disease increases from 2% for people ages 50 to 59 to 30% for people over the age of 75. Additionally, females are more at risk for AMD simply because women live longer than men and therefore live long enough to join the age group at highest risk.
Another major risk factor in developing AMD is genetics. Researchers have pinpointed around 20 genes that can affect the risk of developing the disease. A person with one parent with AMD has twice the risk of developing the disease than a person who doesn't. People with genetic risk should have regular ophthalmology exams after the age of 60.
An additional risk factor is race and ethnicity. Caucasians are much more likely to develop the disease than black or Hispanic Americans. In 2010, white Americans made up 89% of AMD sufferers in the U.S compared to black and Hispanic Americans at 4%.
Another major risk factor in developing AMD is smoking. In fact, smoking is the single biggest risk factor that is considered a modifiable environmental risk factor, meaning that it's something that is not affected by genetics that can be altered or modified through a change in environmental factors. In fact, studies have shown that smoking increases a person's risk of developing AMD between two and threefold.
For more information, contact your local ophthalmology services office today.