Macular Degeneration (cont.)
Macular Degeneration Causes
No one knows the etiology, or cause, of age-related macular degeneration. Causes are likely to be genetically inherited, but environmental factors may also contribute. Macular degeneration often runs in families. There may be a wide variety of different genes and proteins associated with dry and wet macular degeneration. Studies of twins showed that genetic factors play a significant role in the cause.
Many of the following risk factors have been found to be associated with
age-related macular degeneration:
- Age: The likelihood of developing macular
degeneration increases with age.
- Race: Macular degeneration is more common in
whites but occurs in all races.
- Pigmentation: Macular degeneration is more common in lightly pigmented people.
- Iris color: As a corollary of skin pigmentation, people with a more lightly colored iris are more likely to develop some forms of macular degeneration.
- Gender: Women seem to be at greater risk.
- Smoking is a well-established risk factor for both forms of macular degeneration.
- Obesity and syndrome X, or metabolic syndrome, are also associated with the condition.
- Sleep apnea may be associated with macular degeneration independent of the obesity risk factor.
- Exposure to sunlight: Those with lifelong outdoor careers or hobbies as well as those living near the equator and at high altitudes are at greater risk.
- Medications: Some medications like Fosamax for osteoporosis may predispose to macular degeneration.
- High degrees of myopia may be associated with age-related macular degeneration or a similar condition called myopic degeneration.
- Family history is perhaps the most important risk factor other than age.
John D. Sheppard, MD, MMSc
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