Macular Degeneration – Risk Factors and Tips for Prevention

closeup view of eye cornea

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common causes of vision loss and blindness among people 50 and older. According to a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology, about one in 10 Americans in this age bracket have the early form of AMD, while approximately 1 out of every 100 Americans age 50 and older have the vision-threatening, late form of AMD.

AMD primarily damages the macula, the part of the retina responsible for central vision. This deterioration can result in gradually losing sharp vision and the ability to see fine details. During the early stages, AMD may have no signs or symptoms, so individuals may be unaware that they have it. However, as the disease advances, people may lose their ability to drive, see faces, and read smaller print.

Given the rising prevalence of AMD, increasing awareness of its risk factors is essential for early diagnosis and intervention, potentially slowing disease progression and preserving vision. 

Risk factors for AMD

As the name implies, age is the most significant risk factor for AMD. The likelihood of developing the condition increases substantially as you age, with people over 75 nearly 15 times more likely to get AMD than those between 50 and 59 years old. Current research indicates that genetic factors can also cause AMD, putting those with a family history of AMD at higher risk. 

In addition to these non-modifiable risk factors, lifestyle factors increase your chances of developing AMD. This includes smoking, chronic UV exposure, high blood pressure, and a poor diet. Smokers are up to four times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers due to the harmful chemicals in cigarettes that can damage the retina and accelerate AMD. Meanwhile, UV light is known to age all structures of the eye. Over time, chronic unprotected sun exposure causes retinal damage. 

While some risk factors, like age and genetics, are beyond control, specific preventive measures can reduce the risk of AMD. 


Tips for prevention

Wear polarized sunglasses

One of the most crucial steps to prevent this disease is to shield your eyes from the sun’s UV rays. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends wearing sunglasses to block UVA and UVB rays and safeguard the cornea, lens, and retina. For ultimate protection, experts suggest opting for polarized sunglasses that reduce the glare and bright light through the glasses. Fortunately, reputable eyewear brands carry polarized sunglasses with 100% UV protection. This is exemplified by the sleek Costa Reefton and Rincon frames from, which come with blue mirror polarized lenses. Plus, their wraparound shape is ideal for limiting UV light from entering the eyes from the sides. 

Undergo regular eye exams

As we mentioned earlier, AMD, in its early stages, may be unnoticeable. That’s why it’s important to get regular eye exams. Early diagnosis can lead to timely intervention that slows the progression of the disease, preserving vision for as long as possible. Only a doctor of optometry or ophthalmologist can conduct a comprehensive eye and vision examination. Typically, an optometrist is able to detect eye problems through an eye exam. They can refer you to an ophthalmologist for further treatment, such as retinal surgeries. The American Optometric Association advises that those over 60 undergo an eye exam annually. 

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Lifestyle changes like a balanced diet, regular physical activity, and quitting smoking are all integral to minimizing your risk of developing AMD. So, consume a diet rich in leafy green vegetables, fish, and fruits, which provide essential eye-health nutrients. You can also take AREDS2 supplements, such as Bausch + Lomb’s PreserVision supplement, which is known to help slow down vision loss from AMD. Complement your healthy diet with 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week to protect against an overgrowth of blood vessels that occurs in AMD. Lastly, smokers can turn to their local quitline or smoking cessation program to help them quit. 

While AMD threatens vision, understanding the risk factors and adopting the preventive measures above can help mitigate this risk.