We are now please to offer genetic testing for macular degeneration. These simple tests help determine what vitamins will be beneficial for the prevention of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). For people with macular degeneration, or a strong family history of it, the tests will also help predict the chance of someone developing vision issues or loss, and thus allow our doctors to form a treatment plan and monitoring schedule that is appropriate for each patient.

What is AMD?

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and blindness in older adults in the developed world. AMD is a progressive, late onset disease of the macula or central vision. In its early and intermediate forms, the disease presents as small deposits on the retina comprised of cholesterol and complement (inflammatory) proteins and/or pigmentation changes in the retina. Over 90% of individuals who live through their 70s and into their 80s will have these changes in their retina. Approximately 20% of those who develop the early and intermediate form will progress to advanced disease with vision loss as they age. With the presence of advanced stage disease, the center field of view may appear blurry, distorted, or dark.

What causes AMD?

Confirmed risk factors for advanced disease include age, smoking, high BMI (body mass index) and family history. Genetic inheritance explains as much as 71% of the cause of AMD and this inheritance includes at least 12 genes that are associated with AMD progression. These genes are involved with complement immunity and inflammation, oxygen metabolism, cholesterol metabolism and genes involved in the stability of blood vessels and other tissues.

The progression of AMD is difficult to predict in any given patient because there are a number of factors that contribute to the risk of development and progression of this disease. Some risk factors can be changed, such as diet, smoking habits and BMI. Other factors are fixed, such as age, gender, and family history (genotype).

Early detection can save vision

Vision can be saved if AMD is detected at an early stage. However, most people don’t know they are at an increased risk and don’t go to an eye care professional until the symptoms worsen and disease is advanced in one eye.

Patients at high risk of AMD development can be treated with anti-oxidant vitamins. Not every vitamin will be helpful, and some may actually be harmful and cause more AMD progression. Genetic testing will help your eye doctor determine the best treatment strategy and if there are certain vitamins to avoid.