Macular degeneration has a very strong genetic risk factor, accounting for about 70 percent of the lifetime risk for developing vision loss.
Risk factors include older age, female, overweight, fair coloring, smoking, lifetime sun exposure and, most important, nutrition.
Most people don’t need genetic testing; however, in some cases it may be desirable to know your particular risk. A simple cheek swab can determine your risk profile for vision loss up to age 80. Your risk profile could be as low as 3 percent (which is the risk for the average person) up to 80 percent in the highest-risk population.
The value of knowing your risk is that you can modify as many of the risk factors as you can. You can lose weight, stop smoking and wear good sunglasses and/or a hat every time you are outdoors. And a Rotterdam study showed that with appropriate nutrition, you are significantly less likely to progress to vision loss even with genetic risk.