Is Macular Degeneration Hereditary?

Genes may be linked to macular degenerationMacular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness among Americans age 65 and older. While macular degeneration is associated with aging, studies show that the disease also may be hereditary. If you are concerned about your chances of developing macular degeneration, the experts at Eye Q Premium Laser want to share the following information and prevention tips.

Forms of Macular Degeneration

The macula is a part of the retina that provides us with sharp, central vision essential for everyday activities such as reading and driving. Macular degeneration causes loss of central vision and can be diagnosed as either dry (non-neovascular) or wet (neovascular).

Dry macular degeneration is characterized in part by an accumulation of yellowish spots  in and around the macula. Gradual central vision loss may occur but is usually not as severe as with wet macular degeneration.

Wet macular degeneration occurs when new blood vessels grow beneath the retina and leak blood and fluid. As a result, light-sensitive retinal cells may be permanently damaged and can cause blind spots in the central vision. Wet macular degeneration can come in two forms. Classic wet macular degeneration occurs when blood vessel growth, scarring and leakage beneath the retina are clear. Occult wet macular degeneration causes less severe vision loss than the classic version and the new blood vessel growth and leakage beneath the retina are not as clear.

Early signs of vision loss from both wet and dry macular degeneration include shadowy areas in the central vision and fuzzy or distorted vision. A retinal exam from an eye doctor can detect early signs of macular degeneration before symptoms occur.

Genes Linked to Macular Degeneration

Recent studies show people with a family history of macular degeneration have a higher risk of developing the disease. Variants of two genes, known as complement factor H and complement factor B, have been found in 74 percent of patients with macular degeneration. In other studies, complement factor H has been found to be linked to half of all potentially blinding cases of macular degeneration.

Other risk factors:

  • Aging
  • Obesity and inactivity
  • High blood pressure
  • Lighter eye color
  • Smoking
  • Drug side effects


Treatment and Prevention

While there is no cure for macular degeneration as of yet, several treatments can delay the progression of the disease or improve vision. Wet macular degeneration can be treated with FDA-approved drugs called Lucentis, Eyla, Macugen and Visudyne.

You can reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration by taking the following precautions:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat dark, leafy green vegetables, fruits and nuts
  • Take multivitamin or multi mineral supplements
  • Eat fish or fish oil supplements
  • Exercise regularly
  • Wear sunglasses to block UV rays
  • Have regular eye exams

Concerned about your vision? Edmonton LASIK surgeon Dr. Joseph Leong-Sit specializes in procedures that help achieve clearer, better vision. Call Eye Q Premium Laser to schedule a consultation.