by: Jeffry Gerson, OD, FAAO -Medical Director-Optometry-Macular Degeneration Association (MDA)
This is a question I often get asked by my patients that have age-related macular degeneration. I interpret this to mean one of two things on my patients’ minds, and hopefully, this post will help you answer these same questions thought.
The obvious thing being asked is whether by having this condition, will their children also have it. Unfortunately, the answer to this is not so simple. We know that approximately 70% of those who develop AMD are genetic. This means that genetics is a strong predictor/risk factor, but is not everything. For instance, somebody can have a strong family history of AMD and not develop it, while others may not know any family history and still develop it. Genetics is a risk factor that is not modifiable (at least with today’s medical technology). However, there are numerous risk factors that we can modify. For instance, those with a higher genetic predisposition that are also smokers, have about 34x the risk of developing wet AMD…and smoking is modifiable! Other factors are diet, exercise, weight status, and control of systemic conditions like blood pressure. So simply put, the healthier a person is, they can help reduce risk even in the face of unfavorable genetics.
The other question that is an underlying one when people ask this is really “What do I tell my kids”. This one to me is simpler, and it is a two-part answer. First of all, tell your family about your condition so that they are aware in order to help advocate for you and also to advocate for themselves. By advocating for themselves, they should realize it is never too early to make sure they are receiving routine eye care.
Comprehensive routine eye care can help identify AMD, or any other eye condition for that matter, earlier than waiting for symptoms. Further, when somebody tells their eye doctor about a family history of AMD, it will likely prompt a discussion of potential pre-emptive actions to take.
So, what about your kids? Although they may be at greater risk due to their genetics, they can also use knowledge to make sure to receive routine and timely care and advice.