Causes of Macular Degeneration

Millions of Americans are affected by age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which develops in the central portion of the retina called the macula. As the macula deteriorates, it can rob a person of the ability to read, drive, see objects in fine detail or recognize faces. Grey or blank spots can develop in the central part of the visual field.

One of the most common questions about AMD is what exactly are the factors that cause the cells of the macula to degenerate? No one is absolutely certain what causes the complex disease, although experts have their theories. A consultation with the internationally renowned retinal specialists at California Retina Associates can shed light on the most common causes of macular degeneration.


As the name suggests, most cases of macular degeneration are thought to be caused by changes that occur during the aging process. AMD is most common in adults over the age of 65.


Some experts believe there is a genetic component at play with AMD. Research has found a link between the development of the disease and variants of two genes, complement factor H and complement factor B.


A third potential cause of AMD is a surge of vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF. This protein is normally responsible for the creation of new blood vessel It’s critical for blood vessel formation during embryonic development, after an injury or to circumvent blocked blood vessels. But when there is too much VEGF in the eye, it can cause new, abnormal blood vessels to form; these vessels leak blood and fluid that can damage the retina (including the macula).

Ultraviolet and Blue Light

The American Macular Degeneration Foundation believes that ultraviolet (UV) and blue light can possibly lead to AMD. Researchers believe that melanin absorbs harmful UV and blue light and protects us from damaging light rays in our youth. Unfortunately, melanin is lost as we age, making us more vulnerable to damage from UV rays and possibly macular degeneration.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors like smoking and nutrition are believed to play a part in the development of AMD. Not smoking and eating a nutritious diet are two of the first lifestyle changes doctors recommend patients with AMD make to delay or stop the disease’s progression.

More Research Is Needed

More research is needed to conclusively determine the factors that lead to age-related macular degeneration. As Baby Boomers age, it is especially important to identify what causes AMD. The disease is more prevalent than other sight-stealing conditions including glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Some experts expect the number of people affected by AMD to balloon to 17.8 million by the year 2050.

Talk to Our San Diego Macular Degeneration Team

California Retina Associates is internationally recognized for our work with patients with AMD. We offer a range of AMD treatments to slow down the progression of the disease and prevent it from robbing our patients of their central vision.

For more information about macular degeneration and its causes and treatments, please contact us. We have three office locations throughout Southern California in La Mesa, Chula Vista and El Centro.