Is Macular Degeneration Hereditary?

Is macular degeneration hereditary? If you have a parent or a sibling who has age related macular degeneration are you are at a higher risk of developing this macular eye disease.

It becomes all the more important to pay attention to the other risk factors and causes of AMD if you have this family history, as in my husband's case.

is macular degeneration hereditary?

His father was diagnosed with macular degeneration 15 years ago and all of his father's siblings had the same macular degenerative disease. This means my husband has a 50 % chance of developing this central loss of vision.

Therefore, we are all the more diligent in making sure he wears his yellow tinted sunglasses, eats salmon, includes spinach in his diet and takes antioxidant supplements.



Macula Risk Test

Several of the genes associated with macular degeneration have been identified. As a result there is now a macular degeneration test for genes to see if a patient has any of the genes associated with age related macular degeneration.

It is called the Macula Risk Test. According to Dr. Edward Paul, a low vision optometrist with a specialty in macular degeneration, "Macula Risk, a new genetic test, can predict how a patient with AMD will progress. This newer test for those diagnosed with AMD covers the genotype spectrum for those who are at a low risk for vision loss in the future as well as those that have a medium or high risk for severe vision loss."


Genetics and AMD

According to Dr. James C. Folk, author of Protect Your Sight: How to Save Your Vision in the Epidemic of Age-Related Macular Degeneration, "Studies have shown that the risk of AMD is much higher for people whose family members have the disease than for people who have no family history of AMD."

Consider these numbers:

√ Approximately one fourth of all late-stage macular degeneration appears to be related to genetics

is macular degeneration hereditary?

The lifetime risk of developing late-stage macular degeneration is 50% for people who have a relative with macular degeneration vs 12% for people who's relatives do not have macular degeneration (4x the risk).

√ If you have first-degree relatives with late-stage macular degeneration you will develop macular degeneration at an increased rate at a younger age.

Arch Ophthalmol.1998;116:1646-51)

If you find these macular degeneration statistics a bit alarming for you or for your children, consider taking preventative measures now to reduce your chances (and your children's) of developing macular degeneration.

Genetic AMD Studies

Currently there are several clinical trials looking at identifying the genes that may be responsible for the development of AMD.

1. Genetic Factors in Age-Related Macular Degeneration

"This study will examine whether certain polymorphisms (small gene variances) predispose people to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The study will examine and compare the frequency of polymorphisms in patients with AMD to that of individuals without AMD.

This information will help identify genetic risk factors for the AMD and may lead to the development of more effective treatments."

Study Location: National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, United States

2. Genetics and Markers of Degenerative and Inflammatory Eye Diseases

"This study will identify genes that are associated with inflammation or degeneration of the retina (membrane lining the back of the eye that relays vision signals to the brain).

It is thought that many retinal conditions are due to an altered immune system and are based on how the person's genes function and communicate."

Location: National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, United States

3. Repository for Inherited Eye Diseases

"This study will collect blood and DNA samples from patients with inherited eye diseases to be used in research to identify genetic factors responsible for these conditions.

In recent years, nearly 500 genes that contribute to inherited eye diseases have been identified.

Disease-causing mutations are associated with many eye diseases, including glaucoma, cataracts, strabismus, corneal dystrophies and a number of forms of retinal degenerations."

Location: 24 Study Locations

To go to the National Institutes of Health website for a listing of these clinical trials click here:

Clinical Trial Listing regarding Macular Degeneration and Genes

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