What Causes Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD as it is more commonly known, is one of the leading causes of sight loss in the U.S. It is believed to affect as many as 11 million adults with the number being anticipated to rise over during the coming years. This condition occurs when a vital part of the eye, called the macula, begins to deteriorate with advancing age. Vision loss is gradual, but over time, patients will find that their sight is so adversely affected that it interferes with their ability to read, watch television, drive, and even recognize people.


Here’s what you need to know about AMD, including what is believed to cause this debilitating condition.


About age-related macular degeneration

As we know, AMD is characterized by the natural deterioration of the macula. However, many people don’t understand what this area of the eye is and why it is important. The macula is an area of cells that is located near the center of the retina, which is the patch of light-sensitive cells at the very back of the eye. The main purpose of the macula is to help us see colors and to keep our vision sharp. Therefore, when the macula starts to degenerate, it causes problems with seeing colors clearly and compromises our central vision.


Symptoms of age-related macular degeneration

The symptoms of age-related macular degeneration usually start very slowly. This can mean that it may take some time before you become aware that your vision is being negatively affected. However, when you do, some of the symptoms that you may notice could include the following:

  • Blurred vision

  • Straight lines appear wavy or distorted

  • You lose your place easily when reading

  • You struggle to see clearly in low light levels

  • Your eyes are sensitive to light and glare

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your eye doctor to have your vision and the health and condition of your eyes checked.


What causes age-related macular degeneration?

At the present time, the exact reason why some people develop age-related macular degeneration and others don’t is unclear, but there are some factors that are believed to contribute towards the onset of the condition.


Your gender. Research has found that women are more likely to develop AMD than men, with around two-thirds of females being diagnosed with the condition compared to just one-third of males.


Smoking. Not only is smoking bad for our general health, but studies have also found that people who smoke are up to four times more likely to suffer from age-related macular degeneration compared to patients who have never smoked. This is thought to be because smoking restricts the amount of oxygenated blood in your body, thus also restricting the flow of oxygen to vital body parts including the eyes.


High blood pressure. High blood pressure also causes the amount of oxygenated blood flowing around your body to become restricted which could also be a contributor to age-related macular degeneration.


UV damage. Most of us know that exposure to UV rays can damage our skin, but far fewer people remember to protect their eyes from this damage too. Sunglasses should be worn to prevent the sun’s rays from causing damage to our eyes and vision as failure to protect your eyes from these rays could increase your risk of developing AMD.



If you are concerned about age-related macular degeneration, our expert eye care team would be happy to answer your questions and provide some reassurance. Please contact our offices to speak to us or arrange an appointment.

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