The Causes of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Feb 11, 2022 | Eye Diseases, Eye Health

Age-related macular degeneration or AMD is a progressive eye condition that can negatively impact someone’s central vision because of damage to the macular, part of the retina. This eye condition can be further divided into dry AMD and wet AMD. Dry AMD is more common and tends to progress slowly while wet AMD has a faster onset but tends to be rarer.

A significant problem, age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in people over the age of 50 and currently has no cure.1 Also true to its name, older people are at a higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.

What Causes Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

The main cause of macular degeneration is damage to the macular, the part of the retina that is responsible for clear and sharp central vision, but this damage may occur for several different reasons and is still being explored. The exact cause of macular degeneration in the eye may also vary slightly depending on the type of AMD.

The cause of dry AMD is believed to be connected to drusen, small deposits of lipids and protein that can collect in the retina. These drusen tend to get bigger as dry AMD advances, but scientists are still trying to determine exactly where these drusen come from and how they form.  

Taking the disease one step further, the cause of wet AMD is thought to be connected to the growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the macular that may leak fluid. Scientists are still unclear as to precisely why these blood vessels form.

While the exact cause of age-related macular degeneration is still being explored, there is evidence to suggest that certain people are at a higher risk of developing AMD than others. 

You may be at a higher risk for age-related macular degeneration if you:

  • Are 60 or older
  • Have a family history of AMD
  • Smoke
  • Are Caucasian
  • Have high blood pressure or heart disease
  • Are obese
  • Have an unhealthy diet

These factors may not cause AMD but they are correlated with the eye disease.

Preventing AMD

Because the disease is progressive and there is no cure, it is important to take steps to avoid damage as well as catch the disease in its earliest stages.  Especially if you are a higher risk population, it is important to take immediate action.

Some ways to potentially prevent the onset of age-related macular degeneration are to exercise regularly, eat healthy, not smoke, and work on maintaining a healthy blood pressure. These lifestyle practices habits could not only help you avoid age-related macular degeneration but also a variety of other health problems and conditions.  

Because the reasons for macular degeneration can vary, you may not be able to prevent the disease, but you can catch it early on and potentially avoid more serious damage later with a proper care. Regardless of your risk level, you should get an eye exam regularly. These exams can help your doctor diagnose AMD in an early stage and provide guidance for treatment such as medications, therapy, surgery.

The age-related macular degeneration causes can vary and the disease may not be unavoidable, so it is important to get your eye checked regularly. If you are in need of care or an exam, our Watertown eye doctors are here to assist you. Call to make an appointment today.


  1. NCBI- Epidemiology of age-related macular degeneration (AMD): associations with cardiovascular disease phenotypes and lipid factors