What Should I Do If I Have a Family History of Macular Degeneration?

Posted on Thursday, April 27th, 2023 by Dr. Binoy Jani

Macular Degeneration Culpeper

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that progressively steals central vision. It is one of the leading causes of legal blindness in the United States, affecting almost 2 million Americans. Unfortunately, there is no cure for AMD, but there are treatments available to slow the deterioration so that you can maintain more of your vision for longer.

While it is impossible to predict who will be diagnosed with AMD later in life, research shows that genetics can play a significant role in who develops this disease. If you have a parent or sibling with AMD, you have extra motivation to be proactive about taking care of your eyes to maintain your vision.  Dr. Binoy Jani shares what you should know if you have a family history of macular degeneration.

The Genetic Connection

Scientists who have studied the human genome have identified about 30 genes that make a person more likely to develop AMD. Furthermore, two common gene variations (ARMS2/HTRA on chromosome 10 and the complement cascade on chromosome 1) correlate even more highly with AMD rates. While having these genes is by no means a guarantee that you will have AMD, they do increase your risk for having this degenerative disease.

The same is true of having a family member with AMD. Patients who have a parent or sibling with AMD are three to four times more likely to develop AMD than the average person.

Lower Your Other Risk Factors

Since you cannot change your genes, you may wonder what you can do to protect yourself from AMD if you have a family history of this disease. Dr. Jani’s best advice is to make lifestyle adjustments that can lower other risk factors for macular degeneration.

  • Do not smoke or vape: An FDA study found that people who smoke are four times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers.
  • Eat a nutritious diet: Make it a point to eat foods rich in lutein, a vitamin that helps to protect your eyes. Lutein is plentiful in leafy green vegetables like kale, lettuce, and spinach.
  • Wear sunglasses: Ultraviolet exposure can increase your risk for AMD, so wearing shades that block out 99-100% of UV rays can help.

Early Detection Is Critical

In AMD’s earliest stages, symptoms are minimal and easy to overlook. While comprehensive eye exams are a smart choice for all people, those with a family history of AMD should absolutely undergo regular screenings, since that is their best bet for finding AMD before irreversible vision loss.

Vision lost to AMD cannot be recovered, which is arguably the biggest reason why early detection is critical. Since some treatments for AMD can be  successful at  slowing the progression of AMD, your best bet for maintaining clear central vision throughout your life is to begin treatment as soon as a doctor diagnoses this condition.

Make an Appointment

At Vista Eye Specialists, we offer comprehensive eye exams that test for AMD. If you are diagnosed with AMD, we can quickly begin the appropriate treatments like laser surgery and/or injectable medications that can prevent vision loss. To speak with our eye doctors, please call 1-888-393-5264.