What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Age-Related macular degeneration is a disease that involves the macula portion of the retina. The retina is like the film of a camera and it takes the picture of what we are looking at. The macula is responsible for our clear central vision that we use for reading, watching TV, driving a car and etc… In macular degeneration the cells in the macula gradually degenerate as we age in many people.
Genetics and Family History
In age-related macular degeneration, family history is an important risk factor in the possibility of developing macular degeneration. Genes that we inherit from our parents can increase the risk of developing many types of diseases including macular degeneration.
Types of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration
In dry age-related macular degeneration, the cells in the macula slowly degenerate as the person ages. Dry age-related macular degeneration is the most common form of macular degeneration. As the cells degenerate, the vision becomes more blurred and distorted centrally. About fifteen percent progress to severe central vision loss. There are no treatments for dry age-related macular degeneration. There are several drugs presently being studied to help slow down the progression of macular degeneration. Vitamin supplements, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), diet composed of dark green vegetables, no smoking, and lifestyle can slow down the progression of dry age-related macular degeneration.
Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Approximately ten to fifteen percent of dry age-related macular degeneration turns into wet age-related macular degeneration. A blood vessel leaks fluid and/or bleeds in the macula. This can lead to a rapid loss of vision and resulting in a severe loss of central vision. There are medications that can be injected into the eye which shrinks the abnormal vessels and can stabilize the wet age-related macular degeneration. The wet type of age-related macular degeneration needs to be diagnosed as soon as possible to maximize the therapeutic results.
Macular Degeneration and the Role of Genetics
Genetics or family history plays a major role in the development of age-related macular degeneration. We are constantly gaining knowledge about genetics and its relationship to disease. Scientists have discovered several clear and consistent genetic markers in patients with age-related macular degeneration. If you have inherited these genes, you are at much greater risk of developing wet age-related macular degeneration. This knowledge can you and your eye physician design a program to help with your risk of developing macular degeneration.
Who Should be Tested for Genes Related to Macular Degeneration?
RetnaGene™ AMD is a laboratory test designed to assess the genetic risk of developing wet age-related macular degeneration. The test was validated in persons of white race with European ancestry over age sixty. The performance of the test has not been validated in other races, ethnicities, or younger age groups.
Test Procedure for RetnaGene and Macular Degeneration
A specimen will be collected of your DNA for analysis for the RetnaGene AMD test. A simple cotton swab will be rubbed against the inside of your cheek. The results will be sent to your eye doctor and they will explain the results.
If you have a family history of macular degeneration, are of European ancestry, and over age sixty, ask your eye doctor if they recommend you be tested.