Age, family history and smoking are the major risk factors for age-related macular degeneration, with smoking being the only modifiable risk factor, as highlighted in Clinical Risk Factors for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (2010)
The Blue Mountains Eye Study (2015) also identifies the impact on risk of changes in dietary and lifestyle behaviours over 10 years.
Findings from a study conducted in America suggested that vigorous exercise is associated with lower incidence of age-related macular degeneration. Prospective Study of Incident Age-related Macular Degeneration in Relation to Vigorous Physical Activity During a 7-Year Follow-up 2008
There is a consistent body of evidence indicating that smoking is related to a significantly increased risk of developing macular degeneration.
Smoking and the long-term incidence of age-related macular degeneration - The Blue Mountains Eye Study (2007)
Associations of Smoking, Body Mass Index and Dietary Lutein and Age-Related Macular Degeneration Risk (2010)
Further observations on the association between smoking and the long-term incidence and progression of age related macular degeneration: The Beaver Dam Eye Study 2008
A Review of Studies on Smoking and Macular Degeneration 2005
Risk Factors for Incidence of Macular Degeneration 2004
There is clear evidence that macular degeneration has a significant genetic component, with a 50% chance of developing the disease if a direct family history of macular degeneration is present.
Clinical Review and Genetics Update re Macular Degeneration (2013)
Complement Factor H variant Increases the Risk for Early Age-Related Macular Degeneration 2008
Genetic Risk of Developing Advanced Macular Degeneration 2007
Mapping of Macular Degeneration Factor H Gene 2007
Genetic Influence on Early Macular Degeneration: a Twin Study 2002
Nutrition and Diet
Lutein and zeaxanthin
Evidence suggests a diet high in lutein and zeaxanthin can protect against the development or progression of macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in many fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens.
A Review of Dietary Lutein and Zeaxanthin to Reduce the Risk of Late Age-related Macular Degeneration (2011)
Diet and Risk Factors for Age-related Maculopathy 2008
Transport and Retinal Capture of Lutein and Zeaxanthin with Reference to Age-related Macular Degeneration 2008
Dietary Lutein and Zeaxanthin Protect Eyes from Wet Macular Degeneration 2007
Dietary Antioxidants and the Long-term Incidence of Age-related Macular Degeneration: the Blue Mountains Eye Study 2008
Lutein and Zeaxanthin Nutrients for Eye Health 2003
Fish and nuts
Growing evidence suggests eating fish and nuts can provide protection against early and late age-related macular degeneration in older Australians.
Association with Macular Degeneration and Fish cCnsumption, Smoking and Omega-3 Fatty Acids 2006
Dietary Fat, Trans Fat, Nuts and Fish Intake and Macular Degeneration 2004
Red meat, chicken and age related macular degeneration
An Australian study investigated red meat and chicken consumption and its association with age-related macular degeneration. The results from this study, Red Meat and Chicken Consumption and its Association with Age-related Macular Degeneration 2008, suggest that different meats may differently affect age-related macular degeneration risk and may be a target for lifestyle modification. Please note that this is the first study of its kind worldwide and the quantity of meat consumption is very large. The key finding was that large amounts of red meat may increase risk, whereas chicken appears to reduce risk.
Another Australian study, partly funded by the Foundation, Dietary Patterns and their Associated Risk of Macular Degeneration, showed that a dietary pattern, high in fruits, vegetables, chicken and nuts was associated with a lower risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration. Another pattern, low in red meat, was also associated with a lower risk of late stage age-related macular degeneration.
Alcohol and macular degeneration
A 2012 article from CERA in Melbourne, Alcohol and Age-related Macular Degeneration, demonstrated that drinking more than 20g of alcohol per day (two standard drinks) increased the risk of early age-related macular degeneration by 20%.
Summary of Nutritional Supplements for Age-Related Macular Degeneration by the US National Institutes of Health
A large randomised clinical trial conducted in the United States, titled the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found that antioxidants and zinc could help to slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, among people with intermediate and late stages of age-related macular degeneration.
Read the Summary of Results.
Visit the AREDS Website
The initial results of the follow-up AREDS2 study were released in May 2013. This study recommends some small modifications to the original AREDS formulation.
National Institutes of Health press release re AREDS2
A review of four large randomised trials comparing antioxidant vitamin or mineral supplementation (alone or in combination) to a control intervention, the Cochrane review of studies on supplements and macular degeneration (2012), was conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration.
Wet Macular Degeneration Treatments
Research conducted with input from the Foundation resulted in this study entitled Current Barriers to Treatment for Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration: Findings from the Wet age-related Macular Degeneration Patient and Caregiver Survey
Lucentis is an anti-VEGF treatment introduced in Australia in 2007 to treat wet age-related macular degeneration. Studies into Lucentis include:
Improved Vision-related Function after Ranibizumab vs. Photodynamic Therapy: A Randomised Clinical Trial (ANCHOR) 2009
Clinical Trial Results of Lucentis (MARINA) 2006
CATT (Comparison of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatments Trials) was a large study funded by the US National Institutes of Health to compare the efficacy of Lucentis (ranibizumab) and Avastin (bevacizumab).
CATT 1 Year Results
CATT 2 Year Results
Eylea is an anti-VEGF treatment introduced in Australia in December 2012.
Read about the pivotal VIEW1 and VIEW2 studies:
Intravitreal Aflibercept (VEGF trap-eye) in Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (2012).
Intravitreal Aflibercept Injection for Neovascular (Wet) Age-related Macular Degeneration (2012)
Cataract and Macular Degeneration
The following studies address the possible relationship between cataract surgery and increased prevalence of advanced macular degeneration.
Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Four to Five Years After Cataract Surgery (Australian data) 2016
Age-related Maculopathy and Cataract Surgery Outcomes: Visual Acuity and Health-related Quality of Life 2007
Early Age-related Maculopathy in Eyes After Cataract Surgery 2007
Clinical Trial Listings
There are a large number of macular degeneration clinical trials being conducted in the USA. Access the list here.
Stem Cell Trials
A significant amount of research into various stem cell treatments is underway.
The Australian Stem Cell Handbook (2015) gives an excellent explanation of stem cells and how they work, in layman's language.
Read a preliminary report on the first major embryonic stem cell trial for macular degeneration here
A follow-up of the first trial of stem cell treatment for macular degeneration.
Read about the London Project to Cure Blindness (Stem cell research), a collaboration between the University College London and Moorfields Eye Hospital to accelerate the development of stem cell treatments for eye diseases including macular degeneration.