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Causes of Macular Degeneration

Causes and Triggers of Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration or MD, is a widespread eye disease that affects the centre of your vision and can cause vision loss. It is most common in older people. As many as one in seven people over the age of 50 get this disease. 

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While it isn’t known for sure what causes this disease, there are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing it. These include:

  • Being older than 55 
  • macular degeneration running in your family
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Having cardiovascular disease
  • Having high cholesterol

There has also been research showing that macular degeneration may affect white people more than other populations.


Triggers are things that cause certain symptoms to occur or that set off a disease. A general guideline for people with a disease is to avoid its triggers. This starts with knowing exactly what to avoid and why. Here are some common triggers of macular degeneration:

Macular Degeneration Eye
  1. Smoking: According to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Ophthalmic and Psychological Optics, smoking worsens macular degeneration. Their findings showed that patients who smoke experience vision loss 25% faster than those who do not. Smoke reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to the eye. The oxidative damage that follows may contribute to the progression of the disease.
  2. Prolonged Exposure to Sunlight: Staying in the sun for too long may damage a part of the eye known as the retina. This may trigger or worsen some of the symptoms of macular degeneration.
  3. High Blood Pressure: When someone has high blood pressure, the blood vessels in their eyes constrict. This reduces blood flow to the eyes, which increases the risk of macular degeneration and triggers symptoms of the disease. With this in mind it makes sense to be aware of things that may increase your blood pressure. 
  4. Inactivity: Lack of exercise may reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the eye. It may also lead to weight gain, which may contribute to macular degeneration.
  5. Poor Diet: Eating foods that are low in antioxidants, high glycemic foods, have high amounts of sugar, and those with unhealthy fats increases your risk of MD. This also applies to food with a high level of cholesterol. The fatty substance builds up in blood vessels and reduces blood flow, which worsens the symptoms of the disease.
  6. Medications: Some drugs are linked to an increased risk or worsening of macular degeneration. Although the research is not conclusive, some medications include beta-blockers and aspirin. It is important to only take drugs that help you manage blood pressure and any pre-existing cardiovascular disease.
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What Next? 

Now you know the main causes and triggers of MD, the next course of action is to make conscious decisions aimed at avoiding the triggers and managing the disease. This includes eating a healthy diet, limiting exposure to direct sunlight, exercising frequently, quitting smoking, and watching your high blood pressure. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine may also help. Some of its dietary suggestions, recommended lifestyle changes, and treatments may improve your eye health and general wellbeing. For more on this topic reach out to one of our representatives at Centre of Balance or call 07 846 7956.

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Heesterbeek, T. J., Lorés‐Motta, L., Hoyng, C. B., Lechanteur, Y. T., & den Hollander, A. I. (2020). Risk factors for progression of age‐related macular degeneration. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 40(2), 140-170.