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Who's at Risk for AMD

Some risks you can control

There are several factors that can help determine your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Some, such as age or family history, are non-modifiable, which means you can’t change them. Other risk factors, involving lifestyle and behavior choices, are considered modifiable, and these you have control over.

Non-modifiable Risks

These are the known and suspected risk factors for AMD that you cannot modify:

  • Age: Age is the greatest risk factor for AMD, with prevalence increasing dramatically the older you get.
  • Family History: Your risk of developing wet AMD may be four times greater if a parent or sibling has AMD.
  • Gender: Studies suggest a higher incidence of AMD in women.
  • Race: AMD occurs more frequently in Caucasians than other races.

Modifiable Risks

Risks you may be able to control include:

  • Smoking: Smokers have up to three to four times the risk of developing AMD than non-smokers.
  • Diet: Studies have shown that increased intake of a variety of healthy foods may alter the risk of developing AMD. More studies confirm that a high intake of fruits may reduce the risk of AMD and diets rich in carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin (dark green leafy vegetables and some berries) may also lower the risk. For more, see the excerpt from the Canadian Food Guide.
  • Excessive sunlight exposure: The link between sun exposure, specifically blue wavelengths, and cellular damage, suggests that sunlight might damage the macula and be a cause of AMD. While studies are still inconclusive, eye care professionals may recommend protecting the eyes with hats, sunglasses, and by staying in the shade.
  • High fat, processed "junk" food: High consumption of linoleic acid, monounsaturated oils, and polyunsaturated oils — fats commonly found in processed foods — is associated with double the risk of developing wet AMD.
  • High blood pressure: Studies suggest that hypertension may contribute to AMD.