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Age-Related Macular Degeneration & Genetics

What is age-related macular degeneration?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss among older adults. The disease results in damage to the central part of the retina, impairing vision needed for reading, driving, or even recognizing faces. Vision loss related to AMD usually becomes noticeable in a person's 60s or 70s and tends to worsen over time.

Types of AMD

There are two types of age-related macular degeneration: dry and wet. Dry AMD is caused by the buildup of yellow fatty deposits beneath the retina called "drusen." Dry AMD is associated with vision loss that worsens slowly over time. This type of AMD accounts for about 90% of all AMD cases. The remaining 10% of cases are wet AMD, which involves the growth of abnormal blood vessels underneath the macula. When these vessels leak blood and fluid, it damages the macula and makes central vision appear blurry, resulting in severe vision loss that can worsen rapidly.

Is AMD risk influenced by genetics?

Yes - AMD is associated with variants in many genes. Two of these genes are called CFH and ARMS2.

Other factors that can influence AMD risk

In addition to age, other factors that can increase the risk of AMD include smoking and having a family history. Ethnicity may also be a factor: people of European descent are more likely to develop AMD than people of African, Hispanic, or Asian descent. In contrast, eating a healthy diet has been associated with a reduced risk of developing AMD. Consult with a healthcare professional before making any major lifestyle changes.

AMD affects many people

It's estimated that more than 10 million people in the U.S. have some form of age-related macular degeneration.

Explore more

If you want to learn how your genetics may influence your risk for AMD, 23andMe can help. The Age-Related Macular Degeneration Genetic Health Risk report* can tell you whether you may have an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration based on your genetics. The report includes the two most common variants associated with an increased risk of developing the condition. The Age-Related Macular Degeneration Genetic Health Risk report is provided in the 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service.

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