5 Causes of Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in America. Are you at risk of developing this condition that causes your retina to deteriorate? What are the causes, and can you prevent them?

Dr. Sean Stevens and Dr. Tiffany Brawner, your experienced vision care team at ReVision Optix, answer these questions and discuss five major causes of macular degeneration. If you live in Simpsonville or Greenville, South Carolina, and the surrounding communities and you’re concerned about this degenerative eye condition, we can help. 

Understanding macular degeneration

Before we jump into the causes of this incurable eye disease, it’s important to understand macular degeneration. The central portion of your retina is the area in the back of your eye that records images and sends them to the optic nerve so your brain can interpret them. 

This central area of your retina is the macula. It helps you focus so you can see fine details at close-up and far-away distances. When the macula deteriorates, your brain can’t receive images correctly, and therefore, you can’t see clearly. 

At first, you may experience blurred vision, areas of distortion, and difficulty interpreting colors or small print. As the condition progresses, you may experience vision loss from the center of your field of vision, although you might still see clearly through your peripheral (side) vision. 

There are two types of macular degeneration: Dry and wet. Most cases are the dry type, so we’ll take a look at the risk factors for that type of macular degeneration. Although medical professionals can’t pinpoint an exact cause of this degenerative eye disease, they have identified several risk factors that increase your propensity for the condition. 


Age is the biggest risk factor for macular degeneration. In fact, once you reach the age of 50, your chances of developing macular degeneration increase. And, the risk becomes even higher after your 60th birthday. 


According to the Mayo Clinic, being obese may increase the potential for early stages of macular degeneration to progress to a more severe form of the disease. There is also evidence that having cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol — conditions that frequently accompany obesity — may increase your risk of losing your vision to macular degeneration. 


You already know smoking is bad for your lungs and your heart, but did you know it also significantly increases your risk of developing macular degeneration? Even being around secondhand smoke can increase your chances of getting age-related macular degeneration. 


Unlike obesity and smoking, there isn’t much you can do to override your inherited genetic traits. If you have a family member with age-related macular degeneration, you are at a higher risk to develop it as well. 


Macular degeneration primarily affects Caucasians more so than African Americans and Hispanic populations. 

Preventing macular degeneration

While you can’t control all the risk factors for developing macular degeneration, you can take steps to lower your risk, such as:

You should make vision care part of your health plan at every age, but it’s especially important as you get older. Routine eye exams allow us to evaluate your eye health and detect the early stages of macular degeneration or any other age-related eye disease. 

And, even though many of these conditions aren’t curable, including macular degeneration, they are treatable. That means you can minimize progression of the disease and delay or prevent complete vision loss. 

Treatments for macular degeneration may include laser therapy and anti-angiogenesis drugs. In some cases, surgery is necessary to remove abnormal blood vessels in the eye that are contributing to the deterioration of the retina. 

Early diagnosis is essential when it comes to treating macular degeneration. Call either of our South Carolina locations today, or request an appointment online to schedule your eye exam.

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