Age-related macular degeneration, often called AMD or ARMD, is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness among Americans who are age 65 and older. Because people in this group are an increasingly larger percentage of the general population, vision loss from macular degeneration is a growing problem.
AMD is degeneration of the macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for the sharp, central vision needed to read or drive. Because the macula primarily is affected in AMD, central vision loss may occur.
What Causes Macular Degeneration?
Though macular degeneration is associated with aging, research suggests there also is a genetic component to the disease.
Who Gets Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Besides affecting older populations, The disease also can result as a side effect of some drugs, and it seems to run in families. New evidence strongly suggests smoking is high on the list of risk factors for macular degeneration.
Other risk factors for macular degeneration include having a family member with AMD, high blood pressure, lighter eye color and obesity. Some researchers believe that over-exposure to sunlight also may be a contributing factor in development of macular degeneration, but this theory has not been proven conclusively. High levels of dietary fat also may be a risk factor for developing AMD.