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Risk Factors for Macular Degeneration

by Amy Scholten, MPH

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop macular degeneration with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing macular degeneration. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your health care provider what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk Factors Include:


Adult macular degeneration is more common in people over 50, and the risk increases with advancing age.


According to the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, adult macular degeneration is more common in whites than in other races.


Wet macular degeneration is found more often in women than in men.

Genetic Factors

Genetic factors appear to be very common in early-onset types of macular degeneration. Specific genetic causes for adult macular degeneration have not been identified. However, a positive family history may increase risk.

Lifestyle Factors

The following factors all increase your risk of macular degeneration:

  • Smoking
  • Cholesterol
  • Sun Light
  • Environmental Pollution

Certain Medications

According to the National Registry of Drug-Induced Ocular Side Effects, taking certain drugs may increase your risk of developing adult macular degeneration. If you are taking any of these drugs, talk with your doctor about your risk of macular degeneration.

These drugs include:

  • Acetazolamide
  • Aluminum Nicotinate
  • Broxyquinoline
  • Dichlorphenamide
  • Epinephrine
  • Ethoxzolamide
  • Griseofulvin
  • Iodide and Iodine Solutions and Compounds
  • Iodochlorhydroxyquin
  • Iodoquinol
  • Iothalamate Meglumine and/or Sodium
  • Iothalamic Acid
  • Methazolamide
  • Niacin
  • Niacinamide
  • Nicotinyl Alcohol

The following drugs may be linked to adult macular degeneration, but there is no conclusive evidence at this time:

  • Allopurinol
  • Betaxolol
  • Chymotrypsin
  • Dipivefrin
  • DPE
  • Indomethacin
  • Levobunolol
  • Naproxen
  • Phenylephrine


American Academy of Family Physicians

American Macular Degeneration Association

Last reviewed October 2004 by Marc Ellman, MD

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