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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.
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