A Clearer View

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Macular Degeneration Risk Factors

by sdean 12 February 2023 08:02 AM

 elderly lady on couch with glasses

Macular Degeneration, commonly referred to as Age Related Macular Degeneration or ARMD, is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in Americans aged 50 and older.  While the exact cause of ARMD is not yet known, there is plenty that we do know about this disease.  

Risk Factors:

  • Age – It seems like age is a common risk factor for just about every ailment, and macular degeneration is no different.  As we age, our risk for developing ARMD is significantly increased.  White adults in their 60s have a 1% chance of having ARMD, while those 80 and older have a 14% chance! 
  • Family History – It’s a good idea to check with your family to see if anyone has been diagnosed with ARMD as it has been shown to greatly increase your risk of developing it yourself.  If you do have family members with macular degeneration, pay close attention to other risk factors and be sure to get regular eye examinations.
  • Race – As mentioned when discussing age as a risk factor, caucasians are far more likely to suffer from macular degeneration than any other race.  While uncommon, it’s not impossible for other races to have this disease. 
  • High Blood Pressure/Cardiovascular Disease – It is widely believed that the same factors that contribute to hypertension and heart disease are some of the same factors that contribute to macular degeneration.  If you have either (or both) of these conditions, your likelihood of developing ARMD increases.
  • Obesity – While the reason isn’t exactly clear, it has been shown that being overweight may be associated with developing ARMD. 
  • Smoking – Smoking, in general, is detrimental to your health, particularly in increasing your risk of vascular disease.  Since a big part of the disease process of macular degeneration deals with blood vessel abnormalities, it’s no wonder why smoking is a major risk factor for ARMD.


  • Diet & Exercise– We’ve always been told to be sure our diets include a lot of fruits and green, leafy vegetables and for good reason.  These healthy foods are high in vitamins and minerals, including zinc and Vitamins A, C, and E.  These antioxidants can help protect your cells from oxidative damage which contributes to the aging process.  High fat diets have also been linked to a possible ARMD risk factor.  Eating healthier combined with exercise can help with weight loss as well as improving your cardiovascular health, both of which can decrease your risk of developing macular degeneration.
  • Sun Exposure – If you spend a lot of time outdoors, be sure to invest in a good pair of UV protective sunglasses.  Without ultraviolet protection, the development of ARMD can be sped up exponentially.
  • Smoking – It increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart disease as well as macular degeneration.  It can contribute to skin changes, including skin folds, lines, wrinkles, and color changes (skin having a yellow or gray tone).  Not to mention, you can start to develop coughing spells, shortness of breath, frequent headaches, an increase in mucus, and reduced physical fitness. 

    Bottom line: Smoking is bad.  Just don’t do it.

If you think you are at risk for macular degeneration, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care today at 352-373-4300 to make an eye appointment. 

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