Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects over half a million people in the UK and is on the rise. We asked internationally recognised ophthalmologist Mr Praveen Patel what is behind this increase and if there is anything that patients can do to reduce their risk.
How common is age-related macular degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of sight impairment and blind registration in the UK.
The prevalence of AMD increases with age and estimates suggest that there are over 600,000 people living with AMD in the UK. With the number of people living into their 80s and beyond set to rise, AMD is becoming increasingly common.
What risk factors are associated with AMD?
We know that age is the biggest risk factor for AMD. However, there are many fortunate people in their 90s who don’t have AMD while there are also unfortunate people who have lost vision due to AMD in their late 50s or early 60s. This tells us that age is not the only risk factor when it comes to developing AMD.
Genetics also plays a huge role. Doctors and scientists have discovered over 15 different genes which may play a role in increasing or decreasing the development of AMD. Furthermore, for each gene there may be several different forms of changes which may increase or decrease the risk of AMD.
The involvement of many different genes, each with forms which increase or decrease the risk of AMD, also means that sometimes AMD does not simply pass from parent to their children as can be the case for diseases in which 1 gene causes the disease.
The “polygenetic” nature of AMD genetic risk means that it is very difficult to calculate the risk of AMD passing from one generation to the next in a family.
Can you avoid AMD?
We can’t do much about getting older or the genes we inherit from our parents, but there are things we can do to reduce the risk of AMD.
We know that smoking is the biggest modifiable risk factor for AMD so this provides another good reason to reduce or give up smoking. We also know that a diet in green leafy vegetables such as kale and broccoli can help reduce the risk of AMD developing. The role of vitamin supplements remains controversial and it is not currently possible to recommend a particular supplement.
How important is it to look after our eyes?
It’s extremely important to look after our eyes and our vision and a lot of people take their sight for granted. It’s important to have regular eye tests, and if there are risk factors or concerns about AMD then a retinal optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan can help detect the earliest stages of AMD.
To book an assessment with Mr Patel, click here .